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VENETIAN LIFE 

BY WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 

EDMUND H. GARRETT 

IN TWO VOLUMES 

VOLUME I 




CAMBRIDGE : PRINTED AT THE 
RIVERSIDE PRESS : MDCCCCVII 



'■■■'': ^■" ' -^r^s^^mm^ 



COPYRIGHT 1S67, 1S72, 1S9S BY WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS 

COPYRIGHT 1907 BY WILLIAM DBAN HOWELLS AND HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO, 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



VENETIAN LIFE 



AUTOGRAPH 
EDITION 

I 



THIS LARGE-PAPER AUTOGRAPH EDITION 

CONSISTS OF FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY 

COPIES SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR 

THE ARTIST AND THE 

PUBLISHERS 



NO. Zl"f 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ix 

I. VENICE IN VENICE i 

THE POINT OF VIEW — THE FABULOUS AND SEMI- 
FABULOUS VENICE — THE AUSTRIAN TENURE OF 
VENICE AND THE SOCIAL SITUATION UNDER IT — 
THE POLITICAL DEMONSTRATION IN MANNERS AND; 
CUSTOMS 

II. ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE iS 

DEFEAT OF ROMANTIC EXPECTATION IN THE FIRST 
EXPERIENCE OF VENICE — ESSENTIAL DRAMA OF 
THE HOUR AND PLACE — AT HOME IN THE BEAU- 
TIFUL — PERFECT DEMOCRACY OF THE OBJECTS 
OF INTEREST — THE PIAZZA AND CHURCH OF ST, 
MARK — THE ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS — THE 
COFFEE BURNER — THE CAKE VENDER — THE 
SPIRIT AND INFLUENCE OF VENICF 

III. THE WINTER IN VENICE 31 

THE INCLEMENCY OF A MILD CLIMATE — STOVES 
INTRODUCED BY THE GERMANS AT VENICE — 
STONE FLOORS AND STONE-COLD ROOMS — THE 
NATIONAL SCALDING AND ITS USES — A WHOLE 
CITY THAT SNIFFS — THE SHARPER COLD OF THE 
PALLADIAN CHURCHES — ICE IN THE CANALS AND 
LAGOONS — THE FAMOUS YEAR OF ICE — SNOW 
IN THE VENETIAN STREETS — A SNOWFALL ON 
ST. mark's 



iv CONTENTS 

IV. COMINCIA FAR CALDO 45 

THE STREETS AND CANALS — ALL ROADS LEAD TO 
ST. mark's — ONE PL^-ZZA AND MANY CAMPOS — 
THE BEAUTY AND GLORY OF PLVZZA SAN MARCO — 
THE FREQUENTERS OF THE CAFES IN THE PIAZZA 

— POLITICS IN BEARDS — HOW THE SPRING 
COMES IN VENICE — CAMPO SAN BARTOLOMEO 
AND ITS LIFE — THE SPRING MELTS INTO SUMMER 

V. OPERA AND THEATRES 60 

THE BEST VENETIAN THEATRES CLOSED UNDER 
AUSTRIAN RULE — TRADITIONS OF OPERA — POP- 
ULAR PLAYHOUSES — THEATRE OF THE MARIO- 
NETTES — DRAMA OF THE PUPPETS — PUNCH-AND- 
JUDY SHOWS — GOLDONl'S COMEDIES AND THE 
COMEDY OF ART — A LOVE LETTER FOUND IN 
THE LAGOON 

VI. RESTAURANT DINNERS AND DINERS 74 

PERMANENCE OF RESTAURANT LIFE IN ITALY — 
ITALIAN TEMPERANCE IN EATING AND DRINKING 

— ONE FULL MEAL A DAY — " COME EAT FOUR 
GRAINS OF RICE WITH ME " — CAFE ACQUAINT- 
ANCE — EASY CAFE HOSPITALITY — DRAMATIC 
MANNERS OF THE WAITERS — THE CLAMOR IN 
THE RESTAURANTS — COOK-SHOPS OF LOWER 
GRADES — EATING-HOUSES OF THE GONDOLIERS 
AND FACCHINI — HOLIDAY VIANDS 

VII. HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 83 

LODGINGS AND APARTMENTS — BEGINNINGS OF 
VENETIAN HOUSEKEEPING — NEIGHBORS — THE 
FLOWER OF SERVING- WOMEN — THE WOODMAN 
AND OTHER TRADESMEN — FOLLOWERS AND 
HANGERS-ON — THE CREATURES — THE FAMILY 
AND FRIENDS OF THE FLOWER OF SERVING- WOMEN 

— PARTING WITH HER 



f CONTENTS V 

VIII. THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 113 

THE WITCHERY OF VENICE — PASSERS ON THE 
GRAND CANAL — A FRESCO ON THE CANAL — 
BUSINESS CRAFT — A TERRIBLE QUARREL AND A 
WEIRD SPECTACLE 

IX. A DAYBREAK RAMBLE 126 

FRESHNESS OF THE WORLD AT 4 A. M. — DREAM- 
LIKE EFFECTS — PIAZZA AND CHURCH OF ST. 
MARK AT DAYBREAK — MARKETING AT THE 
RIALTO — CHARACTERISTIC PERSONALITIES — 
THOUGHTFUL ASPECT OF THE GOBBO 

X. THE MOUSE 133 

FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE MOUSE — THE AP- 
PEAL OF HIS WRETCHEDNESS — YIELDING TO 
TEMPTATION — PENALTY OF A GOOD ACTION 

XL CHURCHES AND PICTURES 141 

DIFFICULTIES OF THE HUMBLE-MINDED OBSERVER 

— CONTRARIETIES OF RUSKIN — IGNORANT PLEA- 
SURE IN THE BEAUTY OF ST. MARK'S — VOTIVE 
OFFERINGS AND CHURCHES: THE SALUTE, SAN 

■ GIOVANNI E PAOLO — CLOISTERS OF SAN STEFANO 

— CHURCH CATS AND QUAINT EFFECTS 

XIL SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 157 

SOME ISLAND CHURCHES AND THEIR SCULPTURES 

— SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE — THE LIDO AND ITS 
MEMORIES, ITS FORTRESSES AND FIELDS AND VIL- 
LAGES — AN EXCURSION TO TORCELLO, BY WAY 
OF MURANO — INCIDENTS AND OBJECTS OF INTER- 
EST AT TORCELLO, WITH THE WISE CONCLUSION 
OF THE FLOWER OF SERVING- WOMEN — CHIOGGIA 
AND ITS INGENUOUS INHABITANTS 



vi CONTENTS 

XIII. THE ARMENIANS 177 

A PARTICULAR FRIEND — THE SENTIMENT AND 
THE LEARNING OF SAN LAZZARO — THE COLLEGE 
OF THE ARMENIANS IN VENICE AND A GRADUA- 
TION CEREMONIAL 

XIV. THE GHETTO AND THE JEWS OF VENICE 189 

THE ACTUAL SOCIAL STATUS OF THE VENETIAN 
JEWS — THEIR TREATMENT IN THE MIDDLE AGES 
— THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE GHETTO — THE 
GHETTO ITSELF 

XV. SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 200 

ACCIDENTAL RESEARCHES — THE CONVENT OF 
PAOLO SARPI — HIS CONTROVERSY WITH ROME — 
HIS ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION — THE VENETIAN 
PASQUINO AND THE HOUSES OF TINTORETTO AND 
TITIAN — BYRON'S PALACE 

XVI. COMMERCE 218 

WANT OF MATERIAL FOR CONSULAR REPORTS — 
ABUNDANCE OF STATISTICS IN THE PAST: THE 
SALT TRADE, THE SLAVE TRADE, THE GREAT MAIN- 
LAND MARTS, TRAFFIC WITH THE EAST BY LAND 
AND SEA — THE STATE-PROTECTED ARGOSIES — 
THE FIVE GREAT FAIRS — THE VALUE OF VENE- 
TIAN COMMERCE IN 1423 — REVIVAL OF THE GLASS 
INDUSTRY AND THE MOSAIC ART — THE DECAY 
OF VENETIAN COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

SAN GEREMIA frontispiece 

THE MOLO PAGE 46 

SPRING ON THE GRAND CANAL 58 

A LANDING-PLACE 94 

CARGO BOATS 122 

THE OLD MARKET-PLACE 130 

ST. MARK— APRIL SHOWER 144 

AFTERGLOW 186 

THE DOGANA DI MARE 224 



THE AUTHOR TO THE READER 

WHEN I first thought of addressing some 
words to the reader's private eye, as distin- 
guished from his pubUc eye, on the occasion 
of this latest edition of "Venetian Life," I was tempted 
by a recollection of my far youth to cast my words 
in the form of one of those autobiographies in which 
a shilling, or a pin, or the like related its experiences, 
and covertly conveyed a good deal of useful instruc- 
tion in the guise of pleasing adventure. Why not, I 
wondered, let the book speak not only for itself but 
for the author too, and give the whole circumstance in 
which it grew under his hand, and when it was full 
grown went forth to seek its fortune among the pub- 
lishers? Why not let it tell how, having found its fortune, 
hardly and scantly enough, it had prospered on, in spite 
of every demerit, to its present maturity? In the end, 
however, I thought better, or worse, of this notion. It 
could not have been realized without risk of becoming 
a burden to the reader ; and would it have been quite 
fair to the author, seeing that the book had all the other 
chapters to itself, and he would be deprived of his sole 
chance of directly buttonholing the reader ? 

Meanwhile I was making some minor changes in 
those chapters, for their advantage, as I believed, 
though I hoped that in the superabundance of their 
imperfection the changes might not be much noticed 



X THE AUTHOR TO THE READER 

by any chance stickler for the original text. I could have 
imagined a reluctance on the part of the text, which it 
might have expressed whimsically or tragically, if it had 
been permitted, when I used the pruning knife on cer- 
tain exuberances of style in which my youth had too 
eagerly wreaked itself. But enough were left to testify 
of my joy in the wording, in the days when the word- 
ing was apt to come before the thinking, and even 
before the feeling ; only here and there a phrase had 
been cut out which did not seem to have got beyond 
the wording. When I was writing the book forty odd 
years ago, I was always coming back to it from my 
favorite authors with something glittering or tinkling, 
fashioned in their manner, to deck my page. These I 
had removed from it in places, though I had not had the 
heart to disown all such factitious ornaments. I know 
them now for imitations, but once I did not, for once 
I was young and fond, and I hope that the young and 
fond will still think them genuine,'where they remain. 

It is incredible how young I was when I came consul 
to Venice in 1 86 1. If I say I was then twenty-four, I shall 
not expect others to believe me, for I have begun to 
doubt it myself in a world where I find most people 
are sixty or seventy. But I cannot deny the dates of the 
diary which I kept almost from the first day, and with 
the strong dyes of which I colored my impressions of 
Venice in this book. I wrote the diary for myself, but I 
could not help making it rankly literary, such being my 
nature; it would otherwise have been affected and con- 
scious ; and in the transfer of whole passages from its 



THE AUTHOR TO THE READER xi 

pages to these, an entire sincerity as to the fact and a 
fresh hue of actuality went with whatever of rhetorical 
pose was inseparable from the record. I could not have 
been more literary ; but I have sometimes wished I had 
been less ignorant. Yet, after some doubt, I have decided 
that it was well my life had been so simple and un- 
worldly, since I must therefore let my background of 
personal experience form only a very modest, or at least 
a very minor, part of the picture I was trying for. 

My experience had been entirely journalistic, with a 
constant literary intention, and I early wrote out some 
of those passages from my diary and offered them to 
our first literary periodical, with an audacity at which 
I can but wonder in these days of type- written copy; 
for my sketches were transcribed in the palest ink, 
and in the worst hand, on the thinnest paper. It was a 
heart-breaking disappointment when they came back to 
me, and for a long time I had not the courage to send 
them anywhere else. After a year or so my acquaint- 
ance with an editor of the Boston *' Advertiser," passing 
through Venice, seemed to warrant me in offering that 
journal a letter about some contemporary events of in- 
ternational interest. It was printed; and then, tardily 
and timidly, I ventured some of the rejected sketches. 
These were printed, too ; and presently I began to hear 
of a liking for them: from Lowell in Cambridge, my 
literary chief, and from my diplomatic chief, Motley, in 
Vienna, and from more private persons whose praise 
could not be so precious, but in the dearth and distance 
of my exile was almost as welcome. 



xii THE AUTHOR TO THE READER 

Something more than one half of the book appeared in 
letters to the Boston " Advertiser." In the meanwhile, 
and for more than a year afterwards, the scope of the 
work enlarged itself so as to include the historical chap- 
ters, though the chapter on commerce was written after 
it had passed to a second edition. Much later, after 
many editions had been exhausted, I added a chapter in 
which I drew upon my ripened memories. The rest was 
the effect of immediate observation and research in the 
atmosphere of the object. 

The effect of the research I was disposed to value 
most, because it cost me the most labor, all manner of 
studious inquiry being alien to me, while to see things, 
and paint them as I saw them, was evermore a delight 
in which there was never the sense of fatigue. I still 
rather wonder at the number of the books I must have 
turned over, and actually in some cases read through, 
to get at that historical stuff; but I do not mind own- 
ing that here I had the help of the curiously gifted and 
variously lettered house-mate elsewhere mentioned, who 
transcribed sheaves of notes for me in the Library of 
St. Mark. I could not use them all, and a very slight 
scrutiny of the result might prove that I liked best to 
use those which were most pictorial and dramatic. 

Yet from the first I had set my face instinctively against 
that romantic Venice which Byron, and the Byronic 
poets and novelists, had invented for the easyemotion- 
ingof the newcomer. I was tremendously severe with the 
sentimental legends ; if anything I preferred the scandal- 
ous legends, as having finally a greater air of knowing- 



THE AUTHOR TO THE READER xiii 

ness. But that to which I was genuinely affectioned was 
the real life of the place, as I saw it in the present and 
read of it in the past. Of course I was an extreme re- 
publican, and was for the Democracy as it was before 
the Doge Pietro Gradenigo in the thirteenth century, 
and against the Oligarchy which continued after him to 
the end. In this I freely followed Ruskin, but in aesthet- 
ics I was the helpless slave of his over-ethicized criticism. 
I dare say people no longer go about Venice with his 
volumes under their arms, but in my day we should not 
have felt safe in any impression without them. He bade 
us admire the Byzantine and the Gothic, he bade us 
abhor the classicistic in all its Palladian formulations, 
and we eagerly obeyed. I called these and other forbid- 
den formulations indiscriminately by the generic name 
of Renaissance, when I often meant the rococo, or the 
baroque, or the peruke style, but such evidences of my 
ignorance and bigotry I have carefully removed in this 
edition. 

From myself I did not pretend to know anything of 
art in those days, and I do not pretend to know any- 
thing in these days, but sometimes even then I did feel 
its beauty from myself. At such times I rebelled, vio- 
lently if tremulously, against the master who ruled me, 
or the schoolmaster who ferruled me, and made bold to 
deny that Tintoretto was everything and Titian nothing. 
In frequenting the churches and galleries, however, I 
kept to the safer ground of their human interest, as 
I found it. in their votaries and associations. Pictures 
and statues, architecture itself, may be better or worse, 



xiv THE AUTHOR TO THE READER 

and one may end as one began by knowing critically no- 
thing of them ; but men and women at their prayers, in 
the fanes which hold the histories of their saints and 
heroes like the odors of immemorial incense, are always 
appreciable to the imagination and accessible to the intel- 
ligence. I constantly wished to impart the sense of such 
people and places, but in recurring to the record, I have 
found that I was sometimes willing to help myself out 
from the conventionalized sum of others' impressions, 
and to pass o£E the result on the reader as an original 
efjEect in myself. I have therefore in this revision ven- 
tured to suppress some too voluntary Protestant trans- 
ports concerning the simpler-hearted shows of Catholic 
piety : the votive offerings of arms, legs, and hearts, 
the over- dressed Madonnas, the doll-like Bambinos. 
These might have been as deplorable as I professed, 
but I doubted if they had moved me in just the sort I 
professed. I believed rather that I had really felt a pathos 
in them, the appeal of an ignorant faith which a more 
reasoned faith would not refuse utterance. I doubt now 
whether the baroque churches offended my taste so 
deeply as I pretended ; I suspect that they more amused 
me, and that I would not have turned them Byzan- 
tine or Gothic if I could. Certainly I would not have 
any reader of mine attempt the change ; they are of far 
greater human value as they are than anything he could 
make them over into. 

In behalf of a stricter justice, I have somewhat re- 
trenched my inferences from conditions imperfectly seen 
or rashly philosophized. The dearest of all my Venetian 



THE AUTHOR TO THE READER xv 

friends, " now with God " surely, if purity of life can fit 
any man for beatitude after death, long ago brought me 
to grief for these inferences, which might not have been 
errors, when he mildly shrugged at them in the letter 
he wrote me about my book, and said, "Perhaps if you 
had asked farther," meaning that my authorities were too 
one-sided or prejudiced. He thought that with greater 
personal knowledge than I had of the social conditions 
I would not have pronounced them so bad ; and it is in 
reparation to his gentle spirit that I have suppressed 
some bolder conclusions, and am ready to own that so 
far as I was directly acquainted with society in Venice, 
it was no worse than American society as I have since 
found it in the newspapers. I cannot say why I have 
been so long in coming to this act of justice, but I shall 
be willing to have justice for my dereliction delayed yet 
another forty years. 

For the immensely greater part, I have held my hand 
in the revision of my book. If I were suffered to go 
back and make my whole life over where I feel it to 
have been rash and mistaken, senseless and tasteless, I 
should not know, with all my present advantages, quite 
how to do it ; and this book is so essentially a part of 
my life that it will not be treated differently from any 
other part. It remains what I first meant it to be, — a 
picture of Venice in the last years of the Austrian rule, 
say from 1861 till 1865. All my forces went into it when 
I began to write it at twenty-four, and when I got it to- 
gether, completed if not perfected, at twenty-seven, all 
my hopes followed it through the registered post to a" 



xvi THE AUTHOR TO THE READER 

London publisher. A little later, I myself, with all my 
fortunes, followed it to London, where I carried it, brow- 
beatenly, from one publisher to another, and so came 
home with the promise of the first that he would bring 
it out if I could get some American house to take five 
hundred copies. Elsewhere I have told how I managed 
this, through the good comradeship of a young New 
York publisher, who used to beat me at shuffleboard 
on the steamer, and who said one day, in a moment of 
elation, that he guessed he would chance it. 

Since the reader is in this confidential mood with me 
he will not mind hearing what my gains were from 
that first edition, which has been followed by so many 
others. My London publishers issued it on the half-profits 
system, and when my account for royalties came, there 
appeared to be eleven pounds and nine shillings due me. 
It was not much ; but when I saw that everything had 
been charged up against the book, — corrections, stereo- 
typing, printing, paper, binding, advertising, — I did 
not think it so very little. My American publisher was 
willing to oblige me by cashing the sum, but his book- 
keeper said, "I suppose you know how much it is?" 
" Yes, eleven pounds and nine shillings." " Oh, no. It ^s 
eleven shillings and nine pence." I had not noticed a 
mystical commission on sales, in the account, which I 
seemed to have paid in addition to the other expenses, 
and which made the difference. But I explained that 
I never was good at English money, and gladly took 
what wa? really coming to me. As for the American edi- 
tion, I spent my whole percentage from it in replacing 



THE AUTHOR TO THE READER xvii 

certain portions of the London sheets with corrected 
pages, where the errors seemed too gross. I had then 
gone to live in Cambridge where errors, especially in 
foreign languages, were not tolerated ; these were in 
Italian, and worse yet, they were my own blunders. 
But in view of the friendly acceptance of the book on 
both shores of the Atlantic, I counted my loss all gain. 
To have such cordial reviews as began to follow it, one 
might well consent to any pecuniary mortification ; and 
while I did not boast of my returns from the publishers, 
I was very willing to show my friends the returns from 
the critics. 

Here at the end I am tempted, as at the beginning, to 
let the book speak for itself, and express the mortifica- 
tion we have both experienced in later years from its 
being so often called out of its name. The name was 
not given it without long doubt and debate, after twenty 
others had been rejected, and amongst them that by 
which some people speak of it. ** Well,'^ a friend said, 
only the other week, or month, ** I spent the whole time, 
from St. Louis to New York reading over again your 
Venetian Days." The book was lying on the table, 
receiving the author's corrections, and his quick ear 
caught the plaint to which the other's was deaf: "And at 
the top of every one of my five hundred pages, could not 
you read that I am called Venetian Life ? " It was hard 
for the book to bear, but no worse than the author's 
trial once when the book was not by, and when, being 
wrought upon in the extreme by a lady who kept talk- 
ing to him of Venetian Days, he ventured the meek 



xviii THE AUTHOR TO THE READER 

suggestion, ''Life." "What?" she cried. "Oh, but it's 
Venetian Days, I assure you that my copy is Venetian 
Daysl" 

No doubt a rose by any other name would smell as 
sweet, but quite the same it might not like being spoken 
of as a pink. Yet here the book is, at the reader's service, 
whatever he chooses to call it. Kinder readers no book 
ever had, and if the author could have any further wish 
concerning it, his wish would be that it might somehow 
make him personally friends with every friend it has 
won. 



/trAi^^-K 



</ ' 



KiTTERY Point, August, 1907. 



VENETIAN LIFE 



VENETIAN LIFE 



I. VENICE IN VENICE 

THE POINT OF VIEW — THE FABULOUS AND SEMI- 
FABULOUS VENICE — THE AUSTRIAN TENURE OF 
VENICE AND THE SOCIAL SITUATION UNDER IT — 
THE POLITICAL DEMONSTRATION IN MANNERS AND 
CUSTOMS. 

ONE night at the little theatre in Padua, the 
ticket-seller gave us the stage-box (of which 
he made a great merit), and so we saw the 
play and the by-play. The prompter, as noted from our 
point of view, bore a chief part in the drama (as indeed 
the prompter always does in the Italian theatre), and 
the scene-shifters appeared as prominently as the char- 
acters. We could not help seeing the virtuous wife, when 
hotly pursued by the villain of the piece, pause calmly 
in the wings, before rushing, all tears and desperation, 
upon the stage ; and we were dismayed to behold the 
injured husband and his abandoned foe playfully scuf- 
fling behind the scenes. All the shabbiness of the thea- 
tre was apparent to us ; we saw the grossness of the 
painting and the unreality of the properties. And yet I 
cannot say that the play lost one whit of its charm, or 
that the working of the machinery and its inevitable 
clumsiness disturbed my enjoyment in the least. There 
was so much truth and beauty in the playing, that I did 



2 VENETIAN LIFE 

not care for the sham of the apparatus and operation, 
and I presently ceased to take note of it. The illusion 
which I had thought an essential in the dramatic spec- 
tacle, turned out to be a condition of small importance. 

I 

It has sometimes seemed to me as if fortune had given 
me a stage-box at another and grander spectacle, and 
I had been suffered to see this VENICE, which is to 
other cities like the pleasant improbability of the thea- 
tre to every-day, commonplace life, to much the same 
effect as that melodrama in Padua. I could not, indeed, 
dwell three years in the place without learning to know 
it differently from those writers who have described it 
in romances, poems, and hurried books of travel, nor 
help seeing from my point of observation the feint and 
cheapness with which Venice is usually brought out, if 
I may so speak, in literature. At the^same time, it never 
lost for me its claim upon constant surprise and regard, 
nor the fascination of its excellent beauty, its peerless 
picturesqueness, its sole and wondrous grandeur. It is 
true that the streets in Venice are canals ; and yet you 
can walk to any part of the city, and need not take 
boat whenever you go out of doors, as I once fondly 
thought you must. But, after all, though I find dry 
land enough in it, I do not find the place less unique, 
less a mystery, or less a charm. By day, the canals 
are still the main thoroughfares ; and if these avenues 
are not so full of light and color as some would have 
us believe, they, at least, do not smell so offensively as 



VENICE IN VENICE 3 

others pretend. By night, they are still as dark and silent 
as when the secret vengeance of the Republic plunged 
its victims into the ungossiping depths of the Canalazzo ! 

Did the vengeance of the Republic ever do any such 
thing ? 

Possibly. In Venice one learns not quite to question 
that reputation for vindictive and gloomy cruelty that 
alien historians have given to a government which en- 
dured so many centuries in the willing obedience of its 
subjects ; but to think that the careful student of the old 
Republican system will condemn it for faults far different 
from those for which it is chiefly blamed. At all events, 
I find it hard to understand why, if the Republic was an 
oligarchy entirely selfish and despotic, it left to all classes 
of Venetians so much regret and sorrow for its fall. 

So, if the reader cares to follow me to my stage- 
box, I imagine he will hardly see the curtain rise upon 
just the Venice of his dreams, — the Venice of Byron, of 
Rogers, and Cooper ; or upon the Venice of his preju- 
dices, — the merciless Venice of Daru, and of the his- 
torians who follow him. But I still hope that he will be 
pleased with the Venice he sees ; and will think with me 
that the place loses little in the illusion removed ; and — 
to take leave of our theatrical metaphor — I promise to 
fatigue him with no affairs of my own, except as allusion 
to them may go to illustrate Life in Venice ; and posi- 
tively he shall suffer no annoyance from the fleas and 
bugs which, in Latin countries, so often get from travel- 
ers' beds into their books. 

Let us mention here at the beginning some of the 



4 VENETIAN LIFE 

sentimental errors concerning the place, with which 
we need not trouble ourselves hereafter, but which no 
doubt form a large part of every one's associations with 
the name of Venice. Let us take, for example, that 
pathetic swindle, the Bridge of Sighs. There are few, 
I fancy, who will hear it mentioned without connecting 
its mystery and secrecy with the taciturn justice of the 
Three, or some other cruel machinery of the Serenest 
Republic's policy. When I entered it the first time I 
was at the pains to call about me the sad company of 
those who had passed through its corridors from prison 
to death ; and, no doubt, many excellent tourists have 
done the same. I was somewhat ashamed to learn after- 
ward that I had, on this occasion, been in very low soci- 
ety, and that the melancholy assemblage which I then 
conjured up was composed entirely of honest rogues, 
who might indeed have given as graceful and ingen- 
ious excuses for being in misfortune as the galley-slaves 
rescued by Don Quixote, — who might even have been 
very picturesque, — but who were not at all the ma- 
terial with which a well-regulated imagination would 
deal. The Bridge of Sighs was not built till the end of 
the sixteenth century, and no romantic episode of politi- 
cal imprisonment and punishment (except that of An- 
tonio Foscarini) occurs in Venetian history later than 
that period. But the Bridge of Sighs could have nowise 
a savor of sentiment from any such episode, being, 
as it was, merely a means of communication between 
the Criminal Courts sitting in the Ducal Palace, and the 
Criminal Prison across the little canal. Housebreakers, 



VENICE IN VENICE 5 

cut-purse knaves, and murderers do not commonly im- 
part a poetic interest to places which have known them ; 
and yet these are the only sufferers on whose Bridge 
of Sighs the whole sentimental world has looked with 
pathetic sensation ever since Byron drew attention to it. 
The name of the bridge was given by the people from 
that opulence of compassion which enables the Italians 
to pity even rascality in difficulties. 

Political offenders were not confined in the " prison 
on each hand " of the poet, but in the famous Pozzi 
(literally, wells) or dungeons under the Ducal Palace. 
And what fables concerning these cells have not been 
uttered and believed ! For my part, I prepared my 
coldest chills for their exploration, and I am not sure 
that before I entered their gloom some foolish and lying 
literature was not shaping itself in my mind, to be after- 
ward written out as my emotions on looking at them. 
I do not say now that they are calculated to enamour 
the unimpounded spectator with prison life ; but they 
are certainly far from being as bad as I hoped. They 
are not joyously light nor particularly airy, but their 
occupants could have suffered no extreme physical 
discomfort ; and the thick wooden casing of the interior 
walls evinces at least the intention of the state to inflict 
no wanton hardships of cold and damp. 

But on whose account had I to be interested in the 
Pozzi ? It was difficult to learn, unless I took the word 
of sentimental hearsay. I began with Marin Falier, but 
history would not permit the doge to languish in these 
dungeons for a moment. He was imprisoned in the 



6 VENETIAN LIFE 

apartments of state, and during one night only. His 
fellow-conspirators were hanged nearly as fast as taken. 

Failing so signally with Falier, I tried several other 
political prisoners of sad and famous memory with 
scarcely better effect. To a man, they struggled to shun 
the illustrious captivity assigned them, and escaped 
from the Pozzi by every artifice of fact and figure. 

The Carraras of Padua were put to death in the 
city of Venice, and their story is the most pathetic and 
romantic in Venetian history. But it was not the cells 
under the Ducal Palace which witnessed their cruel 
taking-off : they were strangled in the prison formerly 
existing at the top of the palace, called the Torresella.' 
It is possible, however, that Jacopo Foscari may have 
been confined in the Pozzi at different times about the 
middle of the fifteenth century. With his fate alone, 
then, can the horror of these cells be satisfactorily asso- 
ciated by those who relish the dark romance of Venetian 
annals ; for it is not to be expected that the less tragic 
fortunes of Carlo Zeno and Vittore Pisani, who may 
also have been imprisoned in the Pozzi, can move the 
true sentimentalizer. Certainly, there has been anguish 
enough in the prisons of the Ducal Palace, but we 
know little of it by name, and cannot confidently relate 
it to any great historic presence. 

Touching the Giant's Stairs in the court of the palace, 
the inexorable dates would not permit me to rest in the 
delusion that the head of Marin Falier had once stained 
them as it rolled bloodily to the ground -r at the end 

* GallicioUi, Memorie Venete, 



VENICE IN VENICE 7 

of Byron's tragedy. Nor could I keep unimpaired my 
vision of the Chief of the Ten brandishing the sword 
of justice, as he proclaimed the traitor's death to the 
people from between the two red columns in the south- 
ern gallery of the palace ; — that fagade was not built 
till nearly a century later. 

I suppose — always judging by my own average 
experience — that, besides these gloomy associations, 
the name of Venice will conjure up scenes of brilliant 
and wanton gayety, and that in the foreground of the 
brightest picture will be the Carnival of Venice, full of 
antic delight, romantic adventure, and lawless prank. 
But the carnival, with all the old merry-making life of 
the city, is now quite obsolete, and, in this way, the con- 
ventional, masquerading, pleasure-loving Venice has 
become as gross a fiction as if, like that other conven- 
tional Venice of which I have but spoken, it had never 
existed. There is no greater social dullness and sadness, 
on land or sea, than in contemporary Venice. 

The causes of this change lie partly in the altered 
character of the whole world's civilization, partly in the 
increasing poverty of the city, doomed four hundred 
years ago to commercial decay, and chiefly (the Vene- 
tians would be apt to tell you wholly) in the implacable 
anger, the inconsolable discontent, with which the people 
regard their present political condition. 

II 

If there is more than one opinion among men else- 
where concerning the means by which Austria acquired 



8 VENETIAN LIFE 

Venetia and the tenure by which she holds the province, 
there would certainly seem to be no division on the 
question in Venice. To the stranger first inquiring into 
public feeling, there is something almost sublime in the 
unanimity with which the Venetians appear to believe 
that these means were iniquitous, and that this tenure 
is abominable ; and though shrewder study and care- 
fuler observation will develop some interested attach- 
ment to the present government, and some interested 
opposition to it ; though aftef-knowledge will discover, 
in the hatred of Austria, enough meanness, lukewarm- 
ness, and selfish ignorance to take off its sublimity, the 
hatred is still found marvelously unanimous and bitter. 
I speak advisedly, and with no disposition to discuss the 
question or exaggerate the fact. Exercising at Venice 
official functions by permission and trust of the Aus- 
trian government, I cannot regard the cessation of those 
functions as release from obligations both to that gov- 
ernment and my own, which render it improper for me, 
so long as the Austrians remain in Venice, to criticise 
their rule, or contribute, by comment on existing things, 
to embitter the feeling against them elsewhere. I may, 
nevertheless, speak dispassionately of facts, of the ab- 
normal social and political state of the place ; and I can 
certainly do this, for the present situation is disagree- 
able in many ways to the stranger forced to live there, 
— the inappeasable hatred of the Austrians by the Ital- 
ians is so illiberal in application to those in any wise 
consorting with them, and so stupid and puerile in many 
respects, that I think the annoyance which it gives the 



VENICE IN VENICE 9 

foreigner might well damp any passion with which he 
was disposed to speak of its cause. 

This hatred of the Austrian dates in its intensity 
from the defeat of patriotic hopes of union with Italy, 
in 1859, when Napoleon III found the Adriatic at Pes- 
chiera, and the peace of Villafranca was concluded. 
But it is not to be supposed that a feeling so general, 
and so thoroughly interwoven with Venetian character, 
is altogether recent. Consigned to the Austrians by 
Napoleon I, confirmed, by the treaties of the Holy Alli- 
ance, in the subjection into which she fell a second time 
after Napoleon's ruin, defeated in several attempts to 
throw off her yoke, and loaded with heavier servitude 
after the fall of the short-lived Republic of 1849, — 
Venice has always hated her masters with an exaspera- 
tion deepened by each remove from the hope of inde- 
pendence, and she now detests them with a rancor 
which no concession short of their absolute relinquish- 
ment of dominion would appease. 

Instead of finding that public gayety and private hos- 
pitality in Venice for which the city was once famous, 
the stranger finds himself planted between two hostile 
camps, with merely the choice of sides open to him. 
Neutrality is solitude and friendship with neither party ; 
society is exclusive association with the Austrians or 
with the Italians. The latter do not spare one of their 
own number if he consorts with their masters, and 
though a foreigner might expect greater allowance, it 
is seldom shown him. To be seen in the company of 
officers is enmity to Venetian freedom, and in the case 



lo VENETIAN LIFE 

of Italians it is treason to country and to race. Of course, 
in a city where there is a large garrison and a great 
many officers who have nothing else to do, there is in- 
evitably some international love-making, although the 
Austrian officers are rigidly excluded from association 
with the citizens. But the Italian who marries an Aus- 
trian severs the dearest ties that bind her to life, and re- 
mains an exile in the heart of her country. Her friends 
mercilessly cast her off, as they cast off everybody who 
associates with the dominant race. In rare cases I have 
known Italians to receive foreigners who had Austrian 
friends, but this with the explicit understanding that 
there was to be no sign of recognition if they met them 
in the company of these detested acquaintance. 

There are all degrees of intensity in Venetian hatred, 
and after hearing certain persons pour out the gall of 
bitterness upon the Austrians, you may chance to hear 
these persons spoken of as tepid in their patriotism by 
yet more fiery haters. Yet it must not be supposed that 
the Italians hate the Austrians as individuals. On the 
contrary they have rather a liking for them — rather 
a contemptuous liking, for they think them somewhat 
slow and dull-witted — and individually the Austrians 
are amiable people, and try not to give offense. The 
government is also very strict in its control of the mili- 
tary. I have never seen the slightest affront offered by 
a soldier to a citizen ; and there is evidently no personal 
ill-will engendered. The Austrians are simply hated as 
the means by which an alien and despotic government 
is imposed upon a people believing themselves born for 



VENICE IN VENICE ii 

freedom and independence. This hatred, then, is a feel- 
ing purely poHtical, and there is political machinery by 
which it is kept in a state of perpetual tension. 

The Comitato Veneto is a body of Venetians resid- 
ing within the province and abroad, who have charge 
of the Italian interests, and who work in every way to 
promote union with the dominions of Victor Emanuel. 
They live for the most part in Venice, where they have 
a secret press for the publication of their addresses and 
proclamations, and where they remain unknown to the 
police, upon whose spies they maintain an espionage. 
On every occasion of interest, the Committee is sure to 
make its presence felt; and from time to time persons 
find themselves in the possession of its printed circu- 
lars, stamped with the Committee's seal; but no one 
knows how or whence they came. Constant arrests of 
suspected persons are made, but no member of the 
Committee has yet been identified ; and it is said that 
the mysterious body has its agents in every department 
of the government, who keep it informed of inimical 
action. The functions of the Committee are multiplied 
and various. It takes care that on all patriotic anniver- 
saries (such as that of the establishment of the Republic 
in 1848, and that of the union of the Italian States under 
Victor Emanuel in i860) salutes shall be fired in Venice, 
and a proper number of red, white, and green lights 
displayed. It inscribes revolutionary sentiments on the 
walls ; and all attempts on the part of the Austrians to 
revive popular festivities are frustrated by the Commit- 
tee, which causes petards to be exploded in the Place of 



12 VENETIAN LIFE 

St. Mark, and on the different promenades. Even the 
churches are not exempt from these demonstrations : I 
was present at the Te Deum performed on the Emper- 
or's birthday, in St. Mark's, when the moment of elevat- 
ing the host was signalized by the bursting of a petard 
in the centre of the cathedral. All this, which seems of 
questionable utility, and worse than questionable taste, 
is approved by the fiercer of the Italianissimi, and though 
possibly the strictness of the patriotic discipline in which 
the members of the Committee keep their fellow-citizens 
may gall some of them, yet any public demonstration 
of content, such as going to the opera, or to the Piazza 
while the Austrian band plays, is promptly discontinued 
at a warning from the Committee. It is, of course, the 
Committee's business to keep the world informed of pub- 
lic feeling in Venice, and of each new act of Austrian 
severity. Its members are inflexible men, whose ability 
has been as frequently manifested as their patriotism. 
- The Venetians are now, therefore, a nation in mourn- 
ing, and have, as I said, disused all their former plea- 
sures and merry-makings. Every class, except a small 
part of the resident titled nobility (a great part of the 
nobility is in either forced or voluntary exile), seems to 
be comprehended by this feeling of despondency and 
suspense. The poor of the city formerly found their 
respite and diversion in the numerous holidays which 
fell in different parts of the year, and which, though 
religious in their general character, were still insepar- 
ably bound up in their origin with ideas of patriotism 
and national glory. Such of these holidays as related to 



VENICE IN VENICE 13 

the victories and pride of the Republic naturally ended 
with her fall. Many others, however, survived this event 
in all their splendor, but there is not one celebrated 
now as in other days. It is true that the churches still 
parade their pomps in the Piazza on the day of Corpus 
Christi ; it is true that the bridges of boats are still built 
across the Canalazzo to the church of the Salute and 
across the Canal of the Giudecca to the temple of the 
Redentore, on the respective festivals of these churches ; 
but the concourse is always meagre, and the mirth is 
forced and ghastly. The Italianissimi have so far imbued 
the people with their own ideas and feelings, that the 
recurrence of the famous holidays now merely awakens 
them to lamentations over the past and vague long- 
ings for the future. 

As for the carnival, which once lasted six months of 
the year, charming hither all the idlers of the world by 
its peculiar splendor and variety of pleasure, it does not, 
as I said, any longer exist. It is dead, and its shabby 
ghost is a party of beggars, in masks and women's 
dresses, who go from shop to shop blowing horns, and 
droning forth a stupid song, and levying tribute upon 
the shopkeepers. The crowd through which these mel- 
ancholy jesters pass, regards them with a pensive scorn, 
and goes about its business untempted by the delights 
of carnival. 

All other social amusements have shared in greater 
or less degree the fate of the carnival. At some houses 
conversazioni are still held, and it is impossible that 
balls and parties should not now and then be given. 



14 VENETIAN LIFE 

But the greater number of the nobles and the richer of 
the professional classes lead for the most part a life 
of listless seclusion, and attempts to lighten the gen- 
eral gloom and heaviness in any way are not looked 
upon with favor. By no sort of chance are Austrians, 
or Austriacanti ever invited to participate in the plea- 
sures of Venetian society. 

Ill 

As the social life of Italy, and especially of Venice, was 
in great part to be once enjoyed at the theatre, at the 
cafes, and at the other places of public resort, so is 
its absence now to be chiefly noted in those places. No 
lady of perfect standing among her people goes to the 
opera, and the men never go in the boxes, but if they 
frequent the theatre at all, they take places in the pit, 
in order that the house may wear as empty and dispir- 
ited a look as possible. Occasionally a paper bomb is 
exploded in the theatre, as a note of reminder, and as 
a means of keeping away such of the nobles as are not 
enemies of the government. As it is less easy for the 
Austrians to participate in the diversion of comedy, it 
is a less offense to attend the comedy, though even 
this is not good Italianissimism. In regard to the cafes, 
there is a perfectly understood system by which the 
Austrians go to one, and the Italians to another ; and 
Florian's, in the Piazza, seems to be the only common 
ground in the city on which the hostile forces consent 
to meet. This is because it is thronged with foreigners 
of all nations, and to go there is not thought a demon- 



VENICE IN VENICE 15 

stration of any kind. But the other cafes in the Piazza 
do not enjoy Florian's cosmopolitan immunity, and no- 
thing would create more wonder in Venice than to see 
an Austrian officer at the Specchi; unless, indeed, it 
were the presence of a good Italian at the Quadri. 

It is in the Piazza that the tacit demonstration of 
hatred and discontent chiefly takes place. Here, thrice 
a week, in winter and summer, the military band plays 
that exquisite music for which the Austrians are famous. 
The selections are usually from Italian operas, and the 
attraction is the hardest of all others for the Italian 
to resist. But he does resist it. There are some noble 
ladies who have not entered the Piazza while the band 
was playing there, since the fall of the Republic of 
1849 ; and none of good standing for patriotism have 
attended the concerts since the treaty of Villafranca 
in '59. Until very lately, the promenaders in the Piazza 
were exclusively foreigners, or else the families of such 
government officials as were obliged to show them- 
selves there. Last summer, however, before the Franco- 
Italian convention for the evacuation of Rome revived 
the drooping hopes of the Venetians, they had begun 
visibly to falter in their long endurance. But this was, 
after all, only a slight and transient weakness. As 
a general thing, now, they pass from the Piazza when 
the music begins, and walk upon the long quay at the 
sea-side of the Ducal Palace ; or if they remain in the 
Piazza they pace up and down under the arcades on 
either side; for Venetian patriotism makes a delicate 
distinction between listening to the Austrian band in 



i6 VENETIAN LIFE 

the Piazza and hearing it under the Procuratie. As 
soon as the music stops the Austrians disappear, and 
the Italians return to the Piazza. 

The catalogue of demonstrations cannot be made full, 
and it need not be made any longer. The political feel- 
ing in Venice affects her prosperity in a far greater de- 
gree than may appear to those who do not understand 
how large an income the city formerly derived from 
making merry. The poor have to lament not merely the 
loss of their holidays, but also of the fat employments 
and bountiful largess which these occasions threw into 
their hands. With the exile or the seclusion of the richer 
families, and the reluctance of foreigners to make a 
residence of the gloomy and dejected city, the trade of 
the shopkeepers has fallen off; the larger commerce 
of the place has also languished and dwindled year 
by year; while the cost of living has constantly in- 
creased, and heavier burdens of taxation have been laid 
upon the impoverished and despondent people. In all 
this, Venice is but a type of the whole province of 
Venetia. 

The alien life to be found in the city is scarcely worth 
noting. The Austrians have a casino, and they give 
balls and parties, and now and then make some public 
manifestation of gayety. But they detest Venice as a 
place of residence, being naturally averse to living in 
the midst of a people who shun them like a pestilence. 
Other foreigners, as I said, are obliged to take sides for 
or against the Venetians, and it is amusing enough to 
find the few English residents divided into Austriacanti 



VENICE IN VENICE 17 

and Italianissimi.' Even the consuls of the different 
nations, who are in every way bound to neutrality and 
indifference, are popularly reputed to be of one party or 
the other. 

The present situation has now endured five years, 
with only slight modifications by time, and only faint 
murmurs from some of the more impatient, that bisogna^ 
una volta o Valtray romper il chiodo (sooner or later the 
nail must be broken). As the Venetians are a people of 
indomitable perseverance, long schooled to obstinacy 
by oppression, I suppose they will hold out till their 
union with the kingdom of Italy. They can do nothing 
of themselves, but they seem content to wait forever in 
their present gloom. Hqw deeply their attitude affects 
their national character I shall inquire hereafter, when 
I come to look somewhat more closely at the spirit of 
their demonstration. 

For the present, it is certain that the discontent of 
the people has its peculiar effect upon the city as the 
stranger sees its life, making it more and more ghostly 
and sad, and giving it a pathetic charm which I would 
fain transfer to my pages ; but failing that, would pray 
the reader to remember as a fact to which I must be 
faithful in all my descriptions of Venice. 

* Austriacanti are people of Austrian politics, though not of Austrian 
birth. Italianissimi are those who favor union with Italy at any cost. 



II. ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 

DEFEAT OF ROMANTIC EXPECTATION IN THE FIRST 
EXPERIENCE OF VENICE — ESSENTIAL DRAMA OF THE 
HOUR AND PLACE — AT HOME IN THE BEAUTIFUL — 
PERFECT DEMOCRACY OF THE OBJECTS OF INTEREST 
— THE PIAZZA AND CHURCH OF ST. MARK — THE IS- 
LANDS OF THE LAGOONS — THE COFFEE BURNER — 
THE CAKE VENDER — THE SPIRIT AND INFLUENCE OF 
VENICE. 

IT does not really matter just when I first came to 
Venice; yesterday and to-day are the same here; 
but I arrived one winter morning about five o'clock, 
and was not so full of Soul as I might have been in 
warmer weather. Yet I was resolved not to go to my 
hotel in the omnibus (the large many-seated boat so 
called) , but to have a gondola solely for myself and 
my luggage. The porter who seized my valise in the 
station inferred from some very polyglottic Italian of 
mine the nature of my wish, and ran out and threw 
that slender piece of luggage into a gondola. I fol- 
lowed, lighted to my seat by a beggar in picturesque 
and desultory costume. He was one of a class of men- 
dicants whom I came, for my sins, to know better in 
Venice, and whom I dare say every traveler recollects, 
— the ruthless tribe who hold your gondola to shore, 
and affect to do you a service and not a displeasure, 
and pretend not to be abandoned imposters. The 



ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 19 

Venetians call them gransieri^ or crab-catchers ; but 
as yet I did not know the name or the purpose of this 
poverino ' at the station, but merely saw that he had the 
Venetian eye for color : in the distribution and arrange- 
ment of his fragments of dress he had produced some 
miraculous effects of red, and he was altogether as in- 
famous a figure as any friend of brigands would like 
to meet in a lonely place. He did not offer to stab 
me and sink my body in the Grand Canal, as, in all 
Venetian keeping, I felt that he ought to have done ; 
but he implored an alms, and I hardly know now 
whether to exult or regret that I did not understand 
him, but left him empty-handed. I suppose that he 
withdrew the blessings which he had advanced me, as 
we pushed out into the canal ; but I heard nothing, for 
the wonder of the city was already upon me. All my 
nether-spirit, so to speak, was dulled and jaded by the 
long, cold, railway journey from Vienna, while every 
surface-sense was taken and tangled in the bewilder- 
ing brilliancy and novelty of Venice. For there can be 
nothing else in the world so full of glittering and exqui- 
site surprise, as that first glimpse of Venice which the 
traveler catches as he issues from the railway station 
by night, and looks upon her peerless strangeness. 
There is something in the blessed breath of Italy (how 
quickly, coming south, you know it, and how bland it 
is, after the harsh, transalpine air I) which prepares you 
for your nocturnal advent into the place ; and O you I 

* Poverino is the compassionate generic for all unhappy persons who work 
for a living in Venice, as well as many who do not. 



20 VENETIAN LIFE 

whoever you are, that journey toward this enchanted 
city for the first time, let me tell you how happy I 
count you I There lies before you, for your pleasure, the 
spectacle of such singular beauty as no picture can ever 
show you or book tell you, — beauty which you shall 
feel perfectly but once, and regret forever. 

I 

For my own part, as the gondola slipped away from 
the blaze and bustle of the station down the gloom and 
silence of the broad canal, I forgot that I had been freez- 
ing two days and nights ; that I was at that moment very 
cold and a little homesick. I could at first feel nothing 
but that beautiful silence, broken only by the star-silvered 
dip of the oars. Then on either hand I saw stately palaces 
rise gray and lofty from the dark waters, holding here 
and there a lamp against their faces, which brought 
balconies, and columns, and carven arches into momen- 
-tary relief, and threw long streams of crimson into the 
canal. I could see by that uncertain glimmer how fair 
was all, but not how sad and old ; and so, unhaunted 
by any pang for the decay that afterward saddened me 
amid the forlorn beauty of Venice, I glided on. I have 
no doubt it was a proper time to think all the fantas- 
tic things in the world, and I thought them ; but they 
passed vaguely through my mind, without interrupting 
the sensations of sight and sound. The past and present 
mixed there, and the moral and material were blent in 
the sentiment of litter novelty and surprise. The quick 
boat slid through old troubles of mine, and unlooked-for 



ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 21 

events gave it the impulse that carried it beyond, and 
safely around sharp corners of life. All the while I knew 
that this was a progress through narrow and crooked 
canals, and past marble angles of palaces. But I did not 
know then that my fine confusion of sense and spirit 
was the first faint intimation of the charm of life in 
Venice. 

Dark, funereal barges like my own had flitted by, and 
the gondoliers had warned each other at every turn- 
ing with hoarse, lugubrious cries; the lines of balco- 
nied palaces had never ended ; here and there at their 
doors larger craft were moored, with dim figures of 
men moving vaguely about on them. At last we had 
passed abruptly out of the Grand Canal into one of the 
smaller channels, and from comparative light into a 
darkness only remotely affected by some far-streaming 
comer lamp. But always the pallid, stately palaces ; 
always the dark heaven with its trembling stars above, 
and the dark water with its trembling stars below ; but 
now innumerable bridges, and an utter lonesomeness, 
and ceaseless sudden turns and windings. One could 
not resist a vague feeling of anxiety, in these strait and 
solitary passages, which was part of the strange enjoy- 
ment of the time, and which was referable to the nov- 
elty, the hush, the darkness, and the piratical appear- 
ance and unaccountable pauses of the gondoliers. Was 
not this Venice, and is not Venice forever associated 
with bravoes and unexpected dagger-thrusts? That 
valise of mine might represent fabulous wealth to the 
uncultivated imagination. Who, if I made an outcry, 



22 VENETIAN LIFE 

could understand the facts? To move on was relief; 
to pause was regret for past transgressions mingled 
with good resolutions for the future. But I felt the live- 
liest mixture of all these emotions, when, slipping from 
the cover of a bridge, the gondola suddenly rested at 
the foot of a stairway before a closely-barred door. The 
gondoliers rang and rang again, while their passenger 

" Divided the swift mind," 

in the wonder whether a door so grimly bolted and 
austerely barred could possibly open into a hotel, with 
cheerful . overcharges for candles and service. But as 
soon as the door opened, and he beheld the honest 
swindling countenance of a hotel portier, he felt secure 
against everything but imposture, and all wild absurd- 
ities of doubt and conjecture at once faded from his 
thought, when the portier suffered the gondoliers to 
make him pay a florin too much. 

So, I had arrived in Venice, and I had felt the influ- 
ence of that complex spell which she lays upon the 
stranger. I had caught the most alluring glimpses of 
the beauty which cannot wholly perish while any frag- 
ment of her sculptured walls nods to its shadow in 
the canal ; I had been penetrated by a deep sense of the 
mystery of the place, and I had been touched already 
by the anomaly of modern life amid scenes where its 
presence offers, according to the humor in which it is 
studied, constant occasion for annoyance or enthusi- 
asm, delight or sadness. 



ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 23 

II 

I FANCY that the ignorant impressions of the earlier 
days after my arrival need scarcely be set down even in 
this perishable record; but I would not wholly forget 
how, though isolated from all acquaintance and alien to 
the place, I yet felt curiously at home in Venice from the 
first. I believe it was because I had, after my own fash- 
ion, loved the beautiful, that I here found the beautiful, 
where it is supreme, full of society and friendship, speak- 
ing a language which, even in its unfamiliar forms, I 
could partly understand, and at once making me citi- 
zen of that Venice from which I can never be exiled. It 
w^as not in the presence of the great and famous monu- 
ments of art alone that I felt at home, — indeed, I could 
as yet understand their excellence and grandeur only 
very imperfectly, — but wherever I wandered through 
the strange and marvelous city, I found the good com- 
pany of 

" The fair, the old ; " 

and, to tell the truth, I think it is the best company in 
Venice, and I learned to turn to it later from other com- 
panionship with a kind of relief. 

My first rambles, moreover, had a peculiar charm 
which knowledge of locality has since taken away. 
They began commonly with some purpose or desti- 
nation, and ended by losing me in the intricacies of 
the narrowest, crookedest, and most inconsequent little 
streets in the world, or left me cast away upon the 
unfamiliar waters of some canal as far as possible from 



24 VENETIAN LIFE 

the point aimed at. Dark and secret courts lay in 
wait for my blundering steps, and I wa*s incessantly 
surprised and brought to surrender by paths that be- 
guiled me up to dead walls, or the sudden brinks of 
canals. The wide and open squares before the innu- 
merable churches of the city were equally victorious, 
and continually took me prisoner. But all places had 
something rare and worthy to be seen : if not loveli- 
ness of sculpture or architecture, at least interesting 
squalor and picturesque wretchedness ; and I believe I 
had less delight in proper Objects of Interest than in 
the foul neighborhoods that reeked with unwholesome 
winter damps below, and peered curiously out with 
frowzy heads and beautiful eyes from the high, heavy- 
shuttered casements above. Every court had its carven 
well to show me, in the noisy keeping of the water- 
carriers and the slatternly, statuesque gossips of the 
place. The remote and noisome canals were pathetic 
with empty old palaces peopled by herds of poor, that 
decorated the sculptured balconies with the tatters of 
epicene linen, and patched the lofty windows with obso- 
lete hats. 

I found the night as full of beauty as the day, when 
caprice led me from the brilliancy of St. Mark's and the 
glittering streets of shops that branch away from the 
Piazza, and lost me in the dim recesses of the courts, 
or the tangles of the distant alleys, where the dull little 
oil-lamps vied with the tapers burning before the street- 
corner shrines of the Virgin (of old the sole means of 
street lighting at Venice), in making the way obscure. 



ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 25 

and deepening the shadows about the doorways and 
under the arches. I remember distinctly, among the 
beautiful nights of that time, the soft night of late winter 
which first showed me the scene you may behold from 
the Public Gardens at the end of the long concave line 
of the Riva degli Schiavoni. Lounging there upon the 
southern parapet of the Gardens, I turned from the dim 
bell-towers of the evanescent islands in the east (a soli- 
tary gondola gliding across the calm of the water, and 
striking its moonlight silver into multitudinous ripples), 
and glanced athwart the vague shipping in the basin 
of St. Mark, and saw all the lights from the Piazzetta 
to the Giudecca making a crescent of flame in the air, 
and casting deep into the water under them a crimson 
glory that sank also down and down in my own heart, 
and illumined all its memories of beauty and delight. 
Behind these lamps rose shadowy masses of church and 
palace ; the moon stood bright and full in the heavens, 
the gondola drifted away to the northward ; the islands 
of the lagoons seemed to rise and sink with the light 
palpitations of the waves like pictures on the undulating 
fields of banners ; the stark rigging of a ship showed 
black against the sky ; the Lido sank from sight upon 
the east, as if the shore had composed itself to sleep by 
the side of its beloved sea to the music of the surge 
that gently beat its sands ; the yet leafless boughs of 
the trees above me stirred themselves together, and out 
of one of those trembling towers in the lagoons, one 
rich, full sob burst from the heart of a bell, too deeply 
stricken with the glory of the scene, and suffused the 



26 VENETIAN LIFE 

languid night with the murmur of luxurious, ineffable 
sadness. 

But there is a perfect democracy in the realm of the 
beautiful, and whatsoever pleases is equal to any other 
thing there, no matter how low its origin or humble 
its composition ; and the magnificence of that moon- 
light scene gave me no deeper joy than I won from the 
fine spectacle of an old man whom I saw burning coffee 
one night in the little court behind my lodgings, and 
whom I recollect now as one of the most interesting 
people I saw in my first days at Venice. All day long 
the air of that neighborhood had reeked with the odors 
of the fragrant berry, and all day long this patient old 
man — sage, let me call him — had turned the sheet- 
iron cylinder in which it was roasting over an open fire, 
after the picturesque fashion of roasting coffee in Venice. 
Now that the night had fallen, and the stars shone down 
upon him, and the red of the flame luridly illumined 
him, he showed yet more noble and venerable. Mere 
humanity has its own grandeur in Italy ; and it is not 
hard here for the artist to find the primitive types with 
which genius loves to deal. As for this old man, he had 
the beard of a saint, and the dignity of a senator, har- 
monized with the squalor of a beggar, superior to which 
shone his simple, unconscious grandeur of humanity. A 
vast and calm melancholy, which had nothing to do 
with burning coffee, dwelt in his aspect and attitude; 
and if he had been some dread supernatural agency, 
turning the wheel of fortune, and doing men, instead of 
coffee, brown, he could not have looked more sadly 



ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 27 

and weirdly impressive. When, presently, he rose from 
his seat, and lifted the cylinder from its place, and the 
clinging flames leaped after it, and he shook it, and a 
volume of luminous smoke enveloped him and glorified 
him — then I felt with secret anguish that he was be- 
yond art, and turned despairing from the spectacle of 
that sublime and hopeless magnificence. 

At other times (but this was in broad daylight) I was 
moved by the aesthetic perfection of a certain ruffian 
boy, who sold cakes of baked Indian meal to the sol- 
diers in the military station near the Piazza, and whom 
I often noted from the windows of the little cafes there, 
where you get an excellent caffi bianco (coffee with 
milk) for ten soldi and one to the waiter. I have reason 
to fear that this boy dealt over-shrewdly with the Aus- 
trians, for a pitiless war raged between him and one 
of the sergeants. His hair was dark, his cheek was of 
a brown better than olive ; and he wore a brave cap 
of red flannel, drawn down to eyes of lustrous black. 
For the rest, he gave unity and coherence to a jacket 
and pantaloons of heterogeneous elements, and, such 
was the elasticity of his spirit, a buoyant grace to feet 
encased in wooden-heeled shoes. Habitually came a 
barrel-organist, and ground before the barracks, and 

" Took the soul 
Of that waste place with joy ; " 

and ever, when this organist came to a certain lively 
waltz, and threw his whole soul, as it were, into the 
crank of his instrument, my beloved ragamuffin failed 



28 VENETIAN LIFE 

not to seize another cake-boy in his arms, and, thus 
embraced, to whirl through a wild inspiration of fig- 
ures, in which there was something grotesquely rhyth- 
mic, something of barbaric magnificence, spiritualized 
into a grace of movement beyond the energy of the 
North and the fervor of the East. It was coffee and not 
wine that I drank, but I fable all the same that I saw 
reflected in this superb and artistic mastery of the diffi- 
culties of dancing in that unfriendly foot-gear, some- 
thing of the same genius that combated and vanquished 
the elements, to build its home upon sea-washed sands 
in marble structures of airy and stately splendor, and 
gave to architecture new glories full of eternal surprise. 

Ill 

So, I grew early into sympathy and friendship with 
Venice, and being newly from a land where every- 
thing, morally and. materially, was in good repair, I 
rioted sentimentally on the picturesque ruin, the plea- 
sant discomfort and hopelessness of everything about 
me there. It was not yet the season to behold all the 
delight of the lazy, out-door life of the place ; but never- 
theless I could not help seeing that great part of the 
people, both rich and poor, seemed to have nothing 
to do, and that nobody seemed to be driven by any 
inward or outward impulse. When, however, I ceased 
(as I must in time) to be merely a spectator of this 
idleness, and learned that I too must assume my share 
of the common indolence, I found it a grievous burden. 
Old habits of work, old habits of hope, made my end- 



ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS IN VENICE 29 

less leisure irksome to me, and almost intolerable when 
I ascertained fairly and finally that in my desire to fulfill 
long-cherished but, after all, merely general designs of 
literary study, I had forsaken wholesome struggle in 
the currents where I felt the motion of the age, and had 
drifted into a lifeless eddy of the world, remote from 
incentive and sensation. 

For such is Venice, and the will must be strong and 
the faith indomitable in him who can long keep, amid the 
influences of her stagnant quiet, a practical belief in the 
great moving, anxious, toiling, aspiring world outside. 
When you have yielded, as after a while I yielded, to 
these influences, a gentle incredulity possesses you, and 
if you consent that such a thing as earnest and energetic 
life may be, you cannot help wondering why it need be. 
The charm of the place sweetens your temper, but cor- 
rupts you ; and I found it a sad condition of my percep- 
tion of the beauty of Venice and friendship with it, that 
I came in some unconscious way to regard her fate as 
my own ; and when I began to write the sketches which 
go to form this book, it was as hard to speak of any 
ugliness in her, or of the doom written against her in the 
hieroglyphic seams and fissures of her crumbling ma- 
sonry, as if the fault and penalty were mine. I do not, 
therefore, so greatly blame the writers who have com- 
mitted so many sins of omission concerning her, and 
made her all light, color, canals, and palaces. One's 
conscience, more or less uncomfortably vigilant else- 
where, drowses here, and it is difficult to remember that 
fact is more virtuous than fiction. In other years, when 



30 VENETIAN LIFE 

there was life in the city, and this sad ebb of prosperity- 
was full tide in her canals, there might have been some 
incentive to keep one's thoughts and words from laps- 
ing into habits of luxurious dishonesty, some reason for 
telling the whole hard truth of things, some policy to 
serve, some end to gain. But now, what matter ? 



III. THE WINTER IN VENICE 

THE INCLEMENCY OF A MILD CLIMATE — STOVES 
INTRODUCED BY THE GERMANS AT VENICE — STONE 
FLOORS AND STONE-COLD ROOMS — THE NATIONAL 
SCALDINO AND ITS USES — A WHOLE CITY THAT 
SNIFFS — THE SHARPER COLD OF THE PALLADIAN 
CHURCHES — ICE IN THE CANALS AND LAGOONS — 
THE FAMOUS YEAR OF ICE — SNOW IN THE VENE- 
TIAN STREETS— A SNOWFALL ON ST. MARK'S. 

IT was winter, as I said, when I first came to Venice, 
and my experiences of the city were not all purely 
aesthetic. There was, indeed, an every-day rough- 
ness and discomfort in the weather, which travelers 
passing their first winter in Italy find it hard to reconcile 
with the habitual ideas of the season's clemency in the 
South. But winter is apt to be very severe in mild cli- 
mates ; people do not acknowledge it, making a wretched 
pretense that it is summer, only a little out of humor. 

I 

The Germans have introduced stoves at Venice, but 
they are not in much favor with the Italians, who think 
their heat unwholesome, and endure a degree of cold, 
in their wish to dispense with fire, which we of the 
winter-lands know nothing of in our houses. They pay 
for their absurd prejudice with terrible chilblains ; and 
their hands, which suffer equally with their feet, are, in 



32 VENETIAN LIFE 

the case of those most exposed to the cold, objects piti- 
able and revolting to behold when the itching and the 
effort to allay it have turned them into masses of sores. 
It is not a pleasant thing to speak of; and the con- 
stant sight of the affliction among people who bring 
you bread, cut you cheese, and weigh you out sugar, by 
no means reconciles the Northern stomach to its preva- 
lence. I have observed that priests, and those who have 
much to do in the frigid churches, are the worst suffer- 
ers in this way ; and I think no one can help noting in 
the harsh, raw winter-complexion (for in summer the 
tone is quite different) of the women of all classes, the 
protest of systems cruelly starved of the warmth which 
health demands. 

The houses are, naturally enough in this climate 
where there are eight months of summer in the year, 
all built with a view to coolness in summer, and the 
rooms which are not upon the ground-floor are very 
large, lofty, and cold. In the palaces, there are two 
suites of apartments, the smaller and cosier suite upon 
the first floor for the winter, and the grander and airier 
chambers and saloons above, for defense against the 
insidious heats of the sirocco. But, for the most part, 
people must occupy the same room summer and winter, 
the sole change being in the strip of carpet laid meagrely 
before the sofa during the winter. In the comparatively 
few houses where carpets are not the exception, they 
are always removed during the summer — for the triple 
purpose of sparing them some months* wear, banishing 
fleas and other domestic insects, and showing off the 



THE WINTER IN VENICE 33 

beauty of the oiled and shining pavement, which in the 
meanest houses is tasteful, and in many of the better 
sort is often inwrought with figures and designs of 
mosaic. All the floors in Venice are of stone, and 
whether of marble flags, or of that species of composi- 
tion formed of dark cement, with fragments of colored 
marble imbedded and smoothed and polished to the 
most glassy and even surface, and the general effect and 
complexion of petrified plum-pudding, all the floors are 
death-cold in winter. People sit with their feet upon 
cushions, and their bodies muffled in furs and wadded 
gowns. When one goes out into the sun, one often finds 
an overcoat too heavy; but it never gives warmth 
enough in the house, where the Venetian sometimes 
wears it. Indeed, the sun is recognized by Venetians 
as the only legitimate source of heat, and they sell his 
favor at fabulous prices to such foreigners as take the 
lodgings into which he shines. 

It is those who remain indoors, therefore, who are 
exposed to the utmost rigor of the winter, and people 
spend as much of their time as possible in the open air. 
The Riva degli Schiavoni catches the warm afternoon 
sun in its whole extent, and is then thronged with pro- 
menaders of every class, condition, age, and sex; and 
whenever the sun shines in the Piazza, shivering fashion 
eagerly courts its favor. At night men crowd the close 
little cafes, where they reciprocate smoke, respiration, 
and animal heat, and thus temper the inclemency of 
the weather, and beguile the time with solemn loafing, 
and the perusal of dingy little journals, drinking small 



34 VENETIAN LIFE 

cups of black coffee, and playing long games of chess, 
— an evening that seemed to me as torpid and lifeless 
as a Lap's, and intolerable when I remembered the 
bright, social winter evenings of a happier land and 
civilization. 

Sometimes you find a heated stove — that is to say, 
one in which there has been a fire during the day — in 
a Venetian house ; but the stove seems usually to be 
placed in the room for ornament, or else to be engaged 
only in diffusing a very acrid smoke, as if the Venetians 
preferred to take their warmth by inhalation. The stove 
itself is a curious structure, and built commonly of 
bricks and plastering, whitewashed and painted outside. 
It is a great consumer of fuel, and radiates but little heat. 
By dint of constant wooding I contrived to warm mine; 
but my Italian friends always avoided its vicinity when 
they came to see me, and most amusingly regarded my 
determination to be comfortable as part of the eccen- 
tricity inseparable from the Anglo-Saxon character. 

I dare say they would not trifle with winter thus, if 
they knew him in his northern moods. But the only vol- 
untary concession they make to his severity is the scal- 
dinoy and this is made chiefly by the yielding sex, who 
are denied the warmth of the cafes. The use of the 
scaldino is known to all ranks, but it is the women of 
the poorer orders who are most addicted to it. The 
scaldino is a small pot of glazed earthenware, having 
an earthen bale : and with this handle passed over the 
arm, and the pot full of bristling charcoal, the Venezi- 
ana's defense against cold is complete. She carries her 



THE WINTER IN VENICE 35 

scaldino with her in the house from room to room, and 
takes it with her into the street ; and it has often been 
my fortune in the churches to divide my admiration 
between the painting over the altar and the poor old 
crone kneeling before it, who, while she sniffed and 
whispered a gelid prayer, and warmed her heart with 
religion, baked her dirty palms in the carbonic fumes 
of the scaldino. In one of the public bath-houses in 
Venice there are four prints upon the walls, intended to 
convey to the minds of the bathers a poetical idea of 
the four seasons. There is nothing remarkable in the 
symbolization of Spring, Summer, and Autumn ; but 
Winter is nationally represented by a fine lady dressed 
in furred robes, with her feet upon a cushioned foot- 
stool, and a scaldino in her lap 1 When we talk of being 
invaded in the north, we poetize the idea of defense by 
the figure of defending our hearthstones. Alas! could 
we fight for our sacred scaldini ? 

Happy are the men who bake chestnuts, and sell 
hot pumpkins and pears, for they can unite pleasure 
and profit. There are some degrees of poverty below 
the standard of the scaldino, and the beggars and the 
wretcheder poor keep themselves warm, I think, by 
sultry recollections of summer, as Don Quixote pro- 
posed to subsist upon savory remembrances during 
one of his periods of fast. One mendicant whom I know, 
and who always sits upon the steps of a certain bridge, 
succeeds, I believe, as the season advances, in heating 
the marble beneath him by firm and unswerving adhe- 
sion, and establishes a reciprocity of warmth with it. I 



36 VENETIAN LIFE 

have no reason to suppose that he ever deserts his seat 
for a moment during the whole winter ; and indeed, it 
would be a vicious waste of comfort to do so. 

In the winter, the whole city sniffs, and I sometimes 
wildly wondered if Desdemona, in her time, sniffed, and 
I found little comfort in the reflection that Shylock 
must have had a cold in his head. There is compara- 
tive warmth in the broad squares before the churches, 
but the narrow streets are bitter thorough-draughts, and 
influenza lies in wait for its prey in all those picturesque, 
alluring little courts of which I have spoken. 

II 

It is, however, in the churches, whose cool twilight and 
airy height one finds so grateful in summer, that the 
sharpest malice of the winter is felt ; and having visited 
a score of them soon after my arrival, I deferred the 
remaining seventy-five or eighty, together with the gal- 
lery of the Academy, until advancing spring should, 
in some degree, have mitigated the severity of their 
temperature. As far as my imagination affected me, I 
thought the Gothic churches much more tolerable than 
the temples of classic art. The empty bareness of these, 
with their huge marbles, and their soulless splendors 
of theatrical sculpture, their frescoed roofs and broken 
arches, was insufferable. The arid grace of Palladio's 
architecture was especially grievous to the sense in cold 
weather ; and I warn the traveler who goes to see the 
lovely Madonnas of Bellini, to beware how he trusts 
himself in winter to the gusty, arctic magnificence of 



THE WINTER IN VENICE 37 

the church of the Redentore. But by all means the 
coldest church in the city is that of the Jesuits, which 
those who have seen it will remember for its famous 
marble drapery. This base mechanical surprise (for it 
is a trick, and not art) is effected by inlaying the white 
marble of columns and pulpits and altars with a certain 
pattern of verd-antique. The workmanship is marvel- 
ously skillful, and the material costly, but it only gives 
the church the effect of being draped in damask linen ; 
and even where the marble is carven in vast and heavy 
folds over a pulpit to simulate a curtain, or wrought in 
figures on the steps of the high altar to represent a car- 
pet, it has a coldness, a harshness indescribably table- 
clothy. I think all this has tended to chill the soul of 
the sacristan, who is the feeblest and thinnest sacristan 
conceivable, w4th a frost of white hair on his temples 
quite incapable of thawing. In this dreary sanctuary is 
one of Titian's great paintings. The Martyrdom of St. 
Lawrence, to which (though it is so cunningly disposed 
as to light that no one ever yet saw the whole picture at 
once) you turn involuntarily, envious of the Saint toast- 
ing so comfortably on his gridiron amid all that frigidity. 

Ill 

The Venetians pretend that many of the late winters 
have been much severer than those of former years, but 
I think this pretense has less support in fact than in 
the desire of mankind everywhere to claim that such 
weather as the present, whatever it happens to be, was 
never seen before. The winter climate of north Italy is 



38 VENETIAN LIFE 

really very harsh, and though the season is not so severe 
in Venice as in Milan, or even Florence, it is still so 
sharp as to make foreigners regret the generous fires 
and warmly-built houses of the north. There was snow 
but once during my first Venetian winter, 1861-62 ; the 
second there was none at all ; but the third, which was 
last winter, it fell repeatedly to considerable depth, and 
lay unmelted for many weeks in the shade. The lagoons 
were frozen for miles in every direction ; and under our 
windows on the Grand Canal sheets of ice went up and 
down with the rising and the falling tide for nearly a 
month. The visible misery throughout the fireless city 
was great ; and it was a problem I never could solve, 
whether people indoors were greater sufferers from the 
cold than those who weathered the cruel winds sweep- 
ing the squares and the canals, and whistling through 
the streets of stone and brine. The boys had an un- 
wonted season of sliding on the frozen lagoons, though 
a ^ood deal persecuted by the police, who must have 
looked upon such a tremendous innovation as little 
better than revolution ; and it was said that there were 
card-parties on the ice ; but the only creatures which 
seemed really to enjoy the weather were the sea-gulls. 
These birds, which flock into the city in vast numbers 
at the first approach of cold, and, sailing up and down 
the canals between the palaces, bring to the dwellers 
in the city a full sense of mid-ocean forlornness and 
desolation, now rioted on the savage winds, with harsh 
cries, and danced upon the waves of the bitter brine, 
with shrieks of an eldritch and unearthly joy. 



THE WINTER IN VENICE 39 

A place so much given to talk as Venice did not fail 
to produce many memorable incidents of the cold ; but 
the most singular adventure was that of the old man 
employed at the Armenian Convent to bring milk from 
the island of San Lazaro to the city. One night, shortly 
after the coldest weather set in, he lost his oar as he 
was returning to the island. The wind, which is par- 
ticularly furious in that part of the lagoon, blew his 
boat away into the dark, and the good brothers at the 
convent naturally gave up their milkman for lost. The 
winds and waters drifted him eight miles from the city 
into the northern lagoon, and there lodged his boat in 
the marshes, where it froze fast in the stiffening mud. 
He had nothing to eat or drink in his boat, where he 
remained five days and nights, exposed to the inclem- 
ency of cold many degrees below friendship in sever- 
ity. He made continual signs of distress, but no boat 
came near enough to discover him. At last, when the 
whole marsh was frozen solid, he was taken off by some 
fishermen, and carried to the convent, where he remains 
in perfectly recovered health, and where no doubt he 
will be preserved alive many years in an atmosphere 
which renders dying at San Lazaro a matter of no small 
difficulty. During the whole time of his imprisonment, 
he sustained life against hunger and cold by smoking. 
I suppose no one will be surprised to learn that he was 
rescued by the fishermen through the miraculous inter- 
position of the Madonna — as any one might have seen 
by the votive picture hung up at her shrine on a bridge 
of the Riva degli Schiavoni, wherein the Virgin was 



40 VENETIAN LIFE 

represented breaking through the clouds in one corner 
of the sky, and unmistakably directing the operations 
of the fishermen. 

It is said that no such winter as that of 1863-64 
has been known in Venice since the famous Anno del 
Ghiaccio (Year of the Ice), which fell about the begin- 
ning of the eighteenth century. This year is celebrated 
in the local literature ; the play which commemorates 
it always draws full houses at the people's theatre, Mali- 
bran ; and the often-copied picture, by a painter of the 
time, representing Lustrissime and Lustrissimi in hoops 
and bag-wigs on the ice, never fails to block up the 
street before the shop-window in which it is exposed. The 
King of Denmark was then the guest of the Republic, 
and as the unprecedented cold defeated all the plans 
arranged for his diversion, the pleasure-loving govern- 
ment turned the cold itself to account, and made the ice 
occasion of novel brilliancy in its festivities. The duties 
on commerce between the city and the mainland were 
suspended for as long time as the lagoon should remain 
frozen, and the ice became a scene of the liveliest traf- 
fic, and was everywhere covered with sledges, bringing 
the produce of the country to the capital, and carrying 
away its stuffs in return. The Venetians of every class 
amused themselves in visiting this free mart, and the 
more delicate sex pressed eagerly forward to traverse 
with their feet a space hitherto passable only in gon- 
dolas.' The lagoon remained frozen, and these pleasures 
lasted eighteen days, a period of cold unequaled till last 

^ Origine delle Fesie Veneziane^ di Giustina Renier-Michiel. 



THE WINTER IN VENICE 41 

winter. A popular song now declares that the present 
generation has known a winter quite as marvelous as 
that of the Year of the Ice, and celebrates the wonder 
of walking on the water : — 

Che bell' affar! 
Che patetico affar ! 
Che immenso affar ! 
Sora I'acqua camminar ! 

But, after all, the disagreeable winter, which hardly 
commences before Christmas, and which ends about the 
middle of March, is but a small part of the glorious 
Venetian year ; and even this ungracious season has a 
loveliness, at times, which it can have nowhere but in 
Venice. What summer-delight of other lands could 
match the beauty of the first Venetian snow-fall which 
I saw? It had snowed overnight, and in the morning 
when I woke it was still snowing. The flakes fell softly 
and vertically through the motionless air, and all the 
senses were full of languor and repose. It was rapture 
to lie still, and after a faint glimpse of the golden-winged 
angel on the bell-tower of St. Mark's, to give indolent 
eyes solely to the contemplation of the roof opposite, 
where the snow lay half an inch deep upon the brown 
tiles. The little scene — a few square yards of roof, a 
chimney-pot and a dormer window — was all that the 
most covetous spirit could demand ; and I lazily lorded 
it over that domain of pleasure, while the lingering 
mists of a dream of new-world events blent themselves 
with the luxurious humor of the moment and the calm 
of the snow-fall, and made my reverie one of the perfectest 



42 VENETIAN LIFE 

things in the world. When I was lost the deepest in it, 
I was inexpressibly touched and gratified by the appear- 
ance of a black cat at the dormer window. In Venice, 
roofs commanding pleasant exposures seem to be chiefly 
devoted to the cultivation of this animal, and there are 
many cats in Venice. My black cat looked wonderingly 
upon the snow for a moment, and then ran across the 
roof. Nothing could have been better. Any creature 
less silent, or in point of movement less soothing to the 
eye, than a cat, would have been torture of the spirit. 
As it was, this little piece of action contented me so 
well that I left everything else out of my reverie, and 
could only think how deliciously the cat harmonized 
with the snow-covered tiles, the chimney-pot, and the 
dormer window. I began to long for her reappearance, 
but when she did come forth and repeat her manoeuvre, 
I ceased to have the slightest interest in the matter, 
and experienced only the disgust of satiety. I had felt 
ennui — nothing remained but to get up and change 
my relations with the world. 

IV 

In Venetian streets they give the fallen snow no rest. 
It is at once shoveled into the canals by hundreds of 
half-naked y2j:r^^zW, — people of leisure in Italian cities 
who relieve long seasons of repose by occasionally act- 
ing as messengers, porters, and day-laborers, — and now 
in St. Mark's Place the music of innumerable shovels 
smote upon my ear, and I saw the shivering legion of 
poverty as it engaged the elements in a struggle for the 



THE WINTER IN VENICE 43 

possession of the Piazza. But the snow continued to fall, 
and through the twihght of the descending flakes all 
this toil and encounter looked like that weary kind of 
effort in dreams, when the most determined industry- 
seems only to renew the task. The lofty crest of the 
bell-tower was hidden in the folds of falling snow, and I 
could no longer see the golden angel upon its summit. 
But looked at across the Piazza, the beautiful outline of 
St. Mark's Church was perfectly penciled in the air, and 
the shifting threads of the snow-fall were woven into a 
spell of novel enchantment around a structure that al- 
ways seemed to me too exquisite in its fantastic love- 
liness to be anything but the creation of magic. The 
tender snow had compassionated the beautiful edifice 
for the wrongs of time, and so hid the stains and ugli- 
ness of decay that it looked as if just from the hand of 
the builder, — or, better said, just from the brain of the 
architect. There was wonderful freshness in the colors 
of the mosaics in the great arches of the fagade, and all 
that gracious harmony into which the temple rises, of 
marble scrolls and leafy exuberance airily supporting 
the statues of the saints, was a hundred times ethereal- 
ized by the purity and whiteness of the drifting flakes. 
The snow lay lightly on the golden globes that tremble 
like peacock crests above the vast domes, and plumed 
them with softest white ; it robed the saints in ermine ; 
and it danced over all its work, as if exulting in its 
beauty — beauty which filled me with a subtle, selfish 
yearning to keep such evanescent loveliness for the lit- 
tle-while-longer of my whole life, and with despair to 



44 VENETIAN LIFE 

think that even the poor lifeless shadow of it could 
never be fairly reflected in picture or poem. 

Through the wavering snow-fall, the Saint Theodore 
upon one of the granite pillars of the Piazzetta did not 
show so grim as his wont is, and the winged lion on 
the other might have been a winged lamb, so mild and 
gentle he looked by the tender light of the storm.' The 
towers of the island churches loomed faint and far away 
in the dimness; the sailors in the rigging of the ships 
that lay in the Basin wrought like phantoms among the 
shrouds ; the gondolas stole in and out of the opaque 
distance more noiselessly and dreamily than ever ; and 
a silence, almost palpable, lay upon the mutest city in 
the world. 

* St. Theodore was the first patron of Venice, but he was deposed and 
St. Mark adopted, when the bones of St. Mark were brought from Alex- 
andria. The Venetians seem to have felt some compunctions for this deser- 
tion of an early friend, and they have given St. Theodore a place on one of 
the granite pillars, while the other is surmounted by the Lion, representing 
St. Mark. Fra Marco e Todaro is a proverb expressing the state of per- 
plexity which we indicate by the figure of an ass between two bundles of 
hay. 



IV. COMINCIA FAR CALDO 

THE STREETS AND CANALS — ALL ROADS LEAD TO 
ST. MARK'S — ONE PIAZZA AND MANY CAMPOS — THE 
BEAUTY AND GLORY OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO — THE 
FREQUENTERS OF THE CAFES IN THE PIAZZA — POLI- 
TICS IN BEARDS — HOW THE SPRING COMES IN VEN- 
ICE — CAMPO SAN BARTOLOMEO AND ITS LIFE — THE 
SPRING MELTS INTO SUMMER. 

THE Place of St. Mark is the heart of Venice, 
and from this beats her life in every direction, 
through an intricate system of streets and canals 
that bring it back again to the same centre. So, if the 
slightest uneasiness had attended the frequency with 
which I lost my way in the city at first, there would 
always have been this comfort : that the place was very 
small in actual extent, and that if I continued walking I 
must reach the Piazza sooner or later. There is a crowd 
constantly tending to and from it, 'and you have only 
to take this tide, and be drifted to St. Mark's, or to the 
Rialto Bridge, whence the Piazza is directly accessible. 

I 

Of all the open spaces in the city, that before the 
Church of St. Mark alone bears the name of Piazza, 
and the rest are called merely campi, or fields. But if the 
company of the noblest architecture can give honor, the 
Piazza San Marco merits its distinction, not in Venice 



46 VENETIAN LIFE 

only, but in the whole world ; for I fancy that no other 
place in the world is set in such goodly bounds. Its 
westward length is terminated by the Imperial Palace ; 
its lateral borders are formed by lines of palaces called 
the New Procuratie on the right, and the Old Procuratie 
on the left, where, in the old Republican days the Pro- 
curatori di San Marco dwelt; and the Church of St. 
Mark fills up almost its whole width upon the east, leav- 
ing space enough, however, for a glimpse of the Gothic 
beauty of the Ducal Palace. The place then opens 
southward with the name of Piazzetta, between the 
eastern fagade of the Ducal Palace and the classic front 
of the Libreria Vecchia, and expands and ends at last 
on the mole, where stand the pillars of St. Mark and 
St. Theodore ; and then this mole, passing the southern 
fagade of the Doge's Palace, stretches away to the Pub- 
lic Gardens at the eastern extremity of the city, over 
half a score of bridges, between lines of houses and ship- 
ping in the long, crescent-shaped quay called Riva degli 
Schiavoni. Looking northward up the Piazzetta from 
the Molo, the vision traverses the eastern breadth of the 
Piazza, and rests upon the Clock Tower, gleaming with 
blue and gold, on which the bronze Giants beat the 
hours; or it climbs the great mass of the Campanile 
San Marco, standing apart from the church at the corner 
of the New Procuratie, and rising four hundred feet 
toward the sky. 



\y%-^;(^ 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 47 

II 

My first lodging was but a step out of the Piazza, and 
in this vicinity I early made familiar acquaintance with 
its beauty. But I never, during three years, passed 
through it in my daily walks, without feeling as freshly 
as at first the greatness of this beauty. The church, 
which the mighty bell-tower and the lofty height of the 
palace-lines made look low, is in nowise humbled by 
the contrast, but is like a queen enthroned amid upright 
reverence. The religious sentiment is deeply appealed 
to, I think, in the interior of St. Mark's ; but if its in- 
terior is heaven's, its exterior, like a good man's daily 
life, is earth's ; it is this winning loveliness of earth that 
first attracts you to it, and when you emerge from its 
portals, you enter upon spaces of such sunny length 
and breadth, set round with such exquisite architecture, 
that it makes you glad to be living in this world. Before 
you expands the great Piazza, peopled with its motley 
life; on your left, between the Pillars of the Piazzetta, 
swims the blue lagoon, and overhead climb the arches, 
one above another. 

Whatever could please, the Venetian seems to have 
brought hither and made part of his Piazza, that it 
might remain forever the city's supreme grace ; and so, 
though there are public gardens and several pleasant 
walks in the city, the great resort in summer and win- 
ter, by day and by night, is the Piazza San Marco. Its 
ground-level, under the Procuratie, is belted with a glit- 
tering line of shops and cafes, and the arcades that pass 



48 VENETIAN LIFE 

round three of its sides are filled with loungers and 
shoppers, even when there is music by the Austrian 
bands ; for, as we have seen, the purest patriot may then 
walk under the Procuratie, without stain to the princi- 
ples which would be blackened if he set foot in the Pi- 
azza. The absence of dust and noisy hoofs and wheels 
tempts social life out of doors in Venice more than in any 
other Italian city, though the tendency to this sort of ex- 
pansion is common throughout Italy. Beginning with 
the warm days of early May, and continuing till the vil- 
leggiatura (the period spent at the country-seat) inter- 
rupts it late in September, all Venice goes by a single 
impulse of dolcefar niente, and sits gossiping at the doors 
of the cafes on the Riva degli Schiavoni, in the Piazza 
San Marco, and in the different squares in every part of 
the city. But of course, the most brilliant scene of this 
kind is in St. Mark's Place, which has a night-time glory 
from the light of uncounted lamps upon its architectural 
groups. The superb Imperial Palace, the sculptured, 
arcaded, and pillared Procuratie, the Byzantine magic 
and splendor of the church — will it all be there when 
you come again to-morrow night? The unfathomable 
heaven above seems part of the place, for it seems 
never so tenderly blue over any other spot of earth. 
And when the sky is blurred with clouds, shall not the 
Piazza vanish with the azure? — People, I say, come 
to drink coffee, and eat ices here in the summer even- 
ings, and then, what with the promenades in the ar- 
cades and in the Piazza, the music, the sound of feet, 
and the hum of voices, unbroken by the ruder uproar 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 49 

of cities where there are horses and wheels, the effect 
is that of a large evening party, and in this aspect the 
Piazza is like a vast drawing-room. 

I liked well to see that strange life, which even the 
stout, dead-in-earnest little Austrian musicians, piping 
in the centre of the Piazza, could not altogether sub- 
stantialize, and which constantly took immateriality 
from the loveliness of its environment. In the winter 
the scene was the most purely Venetian, and in my first 
winter, when I had abandoned all thought of churches 
till spring, I settled down to steady habits of idleness 
and coffee, and contemplated the life of the Piazza. 

Ill 

The loungers at Florian's were the most interesting, 
because they were the most various. People of all 
shades of politics met in the dainty little saloons, though 
there were shades of division even there, and they did 
not mingle. The Italians carefully assorted themselves 
in a room furnished with green velvet, and the Aus- 
trians and the Austriacanti frequented a red-velvet room. 
They were curious to look at, those tranquil, indolent 
Italian loafers, and I had an uncommon relish for them. 
They seldom spoke together, and when they did speak, 
.they burst from silence into tumultuous controversy, 
and then lapsed again into perfect silence. The elder 
among them sat with their hands carefully folded on the 
heads of their sticks, gazing upon the ground, or buried 
themselves in the perusal of the French journals. The 
younger stood a good deal about the doorways, and 



50 VENETIAN LIFE 

now and then passed a gentle, gentle jest with the wait- 
ers in black coats and white cravats, who hurried to 
and fro with the orders, and called them out in strident 
voices to the accountant at his little table ; or sometimes 
one of these young idlers made a journey to the room 
devoted to ladies and forbidden to smokers, looked long 
and deliberately in upon its loveliness, and then re- 
turned to the bosom of his taciturn companions. By 
chance I found them playing chess, but very rarely. 
They were all well-dressed, handsome men, with beards 
carefully cut, brilliant hats and boots, and conspicuously 
clean linen. I used to wonder who they were, to what 
order of society they belonged, and whether they, like 
my unworthy self, had never anything else but loung- 
ing at Florian^s to do ; but I really know none of these 
things to this day. Some men in Venice spend their 
noble, useful lives in this way, and it was the proud 
reply of a Venetian father, when asked of what profes- 
sion his son was, " ^ in Piazza ! " That was, he bore a 
cane, wore light gloves, and stared from Florian^s win- 
dows at the ladies who went by. 

At the Caffe Quadri, immediately across the Piazza, 
all was a glitter of uniforms, and the idling was carried 
on with a great noise of conversation in Austrian-Ger- 
man. The officers were very comely, intelligent-looking 
people, with the most good-natured faces. They came 
and went restlessly, sitting down and knocking their 
steel scabbards against the tables, or rising and strad- 
dling off with their long swords kicking against their 
legs. They are the most stylish soldiers in the world, 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 51 

and one has no notion how ill they can dress when left 
to themselves, till one sees them in civil dress. 

Further up toward the Fabbrica Nuova (as the Impe- 
rial Palace is called), is the Caffe Specchi, frequented only 
by young Italians, of an order less wealthy than those 
who go to Florian's. Across from this cafe is that of 
the Emperor of Austria, resorted to chiefly by non-com- 
missioned officers, and civilian officials of lower grade. 
You know the civilians, at a glance, by the beard, which 
in Venice is an index to every man's politics : no Aus- 
triacante wears the imperial, no Italianissimo shaves it. 
Next is the Caffe Suttil, rather Austrian, and frequented 
by Italian codini, or old fogies, in politics : gray old fel- 
lows, who caress their sticks with more constant zeal 
than even the elders at Florian's. Quite at the other 
end of the Procuratie Nuove is the Cafe of the Greeks, 
a nation which I have commonly seen represented there 
by two or three Albanians with an Albanian boy, 
who, being dressed exactly like his father, curiously im- 
pressed me, as if he were the young of some Oriental 
animal — say a boy-elephant, or infant camel. 

I hope that the reader adds to this sketch, even in 
the winter time, occasional tourists under the Procuratie 
at the cafes, and in the shops, where the shopkeepers 
are devouring them with the keenness of an appetite 
unsated by the hordes of summer visitors. I hope that 
the reader also groups me fishermen, gondoliers, beg- 
gars, and loutish boys about the base of St. Mark's, 
and at the feet of the three flagstaffs before the church ; 
that he passes me a slatternly woman and a frowzy girl 



52 VENETIAN LIFE 

or two through the Piazza occasionally; and that he 
calls down the flocks of pigeons hovering near, half 
ashamed to show themselves, as being aware that they 
are a great humbug, and unrightfully in the guide- 
books. 

While I sit at Florian's, sharing and studying the 
idleness about me, the brief winter passes, and the spring 
of the south — so unlike the ardent season of the north, 
where it burns summer almost before the snows are 
dried upon the fields — descends upon the city and the 
sea. But except in the little gardens of the palaces, and 
where here and there a fig tree lifts its head to peer over 
a lofty stone wall, the spring finds no response of swell- 
ing bud and unfolding leaf, and it is human nature alone 
which welcomes it. Perhaps it is for this reason that the 
welcome is more visible in Venice than elsewhere, and 
that here, where the effect of the season is narrowed 
and limited to men's hearts, the joy it brings is all the 
keener and deeper. It is certain at least that the rapture 
is more demonstrative. The city, always voiceful, seems 
to burst into song with the advent of these golden days 
and silver nights. Bands of young men go singing 
through the moonlit streets, and the Grand Canal re- 
echoes the music of the parties of young girls as they 
drift along in the scarcely moving boats, and sing the 
glories of the lagoons and the loves of fishermen and 
gondoliers. In the Public Gardens they walk and sing ; 
and wandering minstrels come forth before the cafes, 
and it is hard to get beyond the tinkling of guitars and 
the scraping of fiddles. It is as if the city had put off its 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 53 

winter humor with its winter dress; and as Venice in 
winter is the dreariest and gloomiest place in the world, 
so in spring it is the fullest of joy and light. There is a 
pleasant bustle in the streets, a ceaseless clatter of feet 
over the stones of the squares, and a constant move- 
ment of boats upon the canals. 

We say, in a cheap and careless way, that the south- 
ern peoples have no homes. But this is true only in 
a restricted sense, for the Italian, and the Venetian 
especially, makes the whole city his home in pleasant 
weather. No one remains under a roof who can help it ; 
and now, as I said before, the fascinating out-door life 
begins. All day long the people sit and drink coffee and 
eat ices and gossip together before the cafes, and the soft 
midnight sees the same constant idlers in their places. 
The promenade is at every season the favorite Italian 
amusement ; it has its rigidly fixed hours, and its limits 
are also fixed : but now, in spring, even the promenade 
is a little lawless, and the crowds upon the Riva some- 
times walk as far as the Public Gardens, and throng 
the wider avenues and the Piazza ; while young Venice 
comes to take the sun at St. Mark's in the arms of its 
high-breasted nurses — mighty peasant women, who, 
in their bright costumes, their dangling chains, and 
head-dresses of gold and silver baubles, stride through 
the Piazza with the high, free-stepping movement of 
blood-horses, and look like the women of some elder 
race of barbaric vigor and splendor, which, but for 
them, had passed away from our puny, dull-clad times. 
" £ la stagion che ognuno s' innamora ; " 



54 VENETIAN LIFE 

and now young girls steal to their balconies, and linger 
there for hours, subtly conscious of the young men saun- 
tering to and fro, and looking up at them from beneath. 
Now, in the shady little courts, the Venetian house- 
wives, who must perforce remain indoors, put out their 
heads and gossip from window to window ; while the 
pretty water-carriers, filling their buckets from the wells 
below, chatter and laugh at their work. Every street 
down which you look is likewise vocal with gossip ; 
and if the picturesque projection of balconies, shutters, 
and chimneys, of which the vista is full, hides the heads 
of the gossipers, be sure there is a face looking out of 
every window for all that, and the social, expansive 
presence of the season is felt there. 

The poor, whose sole luxury the summer is, lavish 
the spring upon themselves unsparingly. They come 
forth from their dark dens in crumbling palaces and 
damp basements, and live in the sunlight and the wel- 
come air. They work, they eat, they sleep out of doors. 
Mothers of families sit at their thresholds and spin, or 
walk volubly up and down with other slatternly matrons, 
armed with spindle and distaff ; while their raven-haired 
daughters, lounging near the threshold, chase the covert 
insects that haunt the tangles of the children's locks. 
Within doors shines the bare bald head of the grand- 
mother, who never ceases talking for an instant. 

Before the winter passed, I had changed my habitation 
from rooms near the Piazza to quarters in the Campo 
San Bartolomeo, through which the busiest street in Ven- 
ice passes from St. Mark's to the Rialto Bridge. It is one 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 55 

of the smallest squares in the city, and the very noisiest, 
and here the spring came with intolerable uproar. I had 
taken my rooms early in March, when the tumult under 
my windows amounted only to a cheerful stir, and made 
company for me ; but when the winter broke, and the 
windows were opened, I found that I had too much 
society. 

Each campo in Venice is a little city, self-contained 
and independent. Each has its church, of which it was 
in the earliest times the burial-ground ; and each within 
its limits compasses a cafe, more or less brilliant, a family 
grocery, an apothecary's shop, a mercer's, a draper's, 
an ironsmith's, a shoemaker's, a green-grocer's, a fruit- 
erer's shop, — yes, there is also a second-hand mer- 
chant's shop, where you buy and sell every kind of worn- 
out thing at the lowest rates. Of course there is a cop- 
persmith's and a watchmaker's, and pretty certainly a 
wood-carver's and gilder's ; without a barber's shop no 
campo could preserve its integrity or inform itself of 
the social and political news of the day. In addition to 
all these elements of bustle and disturbance, San Ear- 
tolomeo swarmed with the traffic and rang with the 
bargains of the Rialto market. 

Here the small dealer makes up in boastful clamor for 
the absence of quantity and assortment in his wares ; and 
it often happens that an almost imperceptible boy, with a 
card of shirt-buttons and a paper of hair-pins, is much 
worse than the Anvil Chorus with real anvils. Fishermen, 
with baskets of fish upon their heads ; peddlers, with 
trays of household wares ; louts who dragged baskets of 



56 VENETIAN LIFE 

lemons and oranges back and forth by long cords ; men 
who sold water by the glass ; charlatans who advertised 
cement for mending broken dishes, and drops for the 
cure of toothache ; jugglers who spread their carpets and 
arranged their temples of magic upon the ground ; organ- 
ists who ground their organs ; and poets of the people 
who brought out new songs, and sang and sold them to 
the crowd — these were the children of confusion, whom 
the pleasant sun and friendly air woke to frantic and in- 
terminable uproar in San Bartolomeo. 

Yet there was a charm about it all at first, and I spent 
.much time in the study of the vociferous life under my 
windows, trying to make out the meaning of the different 
cries, and to trace them back to their sources. There was 
one which puzzled me for a long time, — a sharp, pealing 
cry that ended in a wail of angry despair, and, rising high 
above the other sounds, impressed the spirit like the cry 
of that bird in the tropic forests which the terrified Span- 
iards called the alma perdida. After many days of listen- 
ing and trembling, I found that it proceeded from a 
wretched, sunburnt girl, who carried about some dozens 
of knotty pears, and whose hair hung disheveled round 
her eyes, bloodshot with the strain of her incessant 
shrieks. 

In San Bartolomeo, as in other squares, the buildings 
are palaces above and shops below. The ground-floor is 
devoted to the small commerce of various kinds already 
mentioned ; the first story above is occupied by trades- 
men's families ; and on the third or fourth flooi»is the ap- 
partamento signorile. From the balconies of these stories 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 57 

hung the cages of innumerable finches, canaries, black- 
birds, and savage parrots, which sang and screamed 
with delight in the noise that rose from the crowd. The 
human life, therefore, which the spring drew to the case- 
ments was perceptible only in dumb show. One of the pal- 
aces opposite was used as a hotel, and faces continually 
appeared at the windows. By all odds the most interest- 
ing figure there was that of a stout peasant serving-girl, 
dressed in a white knitted jacket, a crimson neckerchief, 
and a bright -colored gown, and wearing long dangling 
earrings of yellowest gold. For hours this idle maiden 
balanced herself half over the balcony rail in perusal of 
the people under her, and I suspect made love at that dis- 
ta,nce, and in that constrained position, to some one in the 
crowd. On another balcony, a lady sat and knitted with 
crimson yarn ; and at the window of still another house, 
a damsel now looked out upon the square, and now gave 
a glance into the room, in the evident direction of a 
mirror. Venetian neighbors have the amiable custom of 
studying one another's features through opera-glasses ; 
but I could not persuade myself to use this means of 
learning the mirror's response to the damsel's constant 
" Fair or not ? " being a believer in every woman^s right 
to look well a little way off. I shunned whatever trifling 
temptation there was in the case, and turned again to the 
campo beneath — to the placid dandies about the door of 
the cafe ; to the tide of passers from the Merceria ; the 
smooth-shaven Venetians of other days, and the bearded 
Venetians of these ; the dark-eyed, white-faced Vene- 
tian girls, hooped in cruel disproportion to the narrow 



58 VENETIAN LIFE 

streets, but richly clad, and moving with southern grace ; 
the files of heavily burdened soldiers ; the little police- 
men loitering lazily about with their swords at their 
sides, in their spotless Austrian uniforms. 

IV 

As the spring advances in Venice, and the heat in- 
creases, the expansive delight with which the city hails 
its coming passes into a tranquiller humor in places, as 
if the joy of the beautiful season had sunk too deeply 
into their heart for utterance. I, too, felt this longing for 
quiet, and as San Bartolomeo continued untouched by 
it, and all day roared and thundered under my windows, 
and all night long gave itself up to sleepless youths 
who there melodiously bayed the moon in chorus, I 
was obliged to abandon San Bartolomeo, and seek 
calmer quarters, where I might enjoy the last luxurious 
sensations of the spring-time in peace. 

Now, when the city lapses into this tranquiller humor, 
the promenades cease. The facchino gives his leisure 
to sleeping in the sun ; and in the mellow afternoons 
there is scarcely a space of six feet square on the Riva 
degli Schiavoni which does not bear its brown-cloaked 
peasant, basking face-downward in the warmth. The 
broad steps of the bridges are by right the berths of the 
beggars ; the sailors and fishermen slumber in their boats; 
and the gondoliers, if they do not sleep, are yet placated 
by the season, and forbear to quarrel, and only break 
into brief clamors at the sight of inaccessible English 
passing near them under the guard of valets de place. 



?ei%\?;v =•■>■': ;. ■:-::;^::^-^: 




-"j^js;^ 



';:r^i 



COMINCIA FAR CALDO 59 

Even the play of the children ceases, except in the PubHc 
Gardens, where the children of the poor have indolent 
games, and sport as noiselessly as the lizards that slide 
from shadow to shadow and glitter in the sun asleep. 
This vernal silence of the city possesses you, — the 
stranger in it, — not with sadness, not with melancholy, 
but with a deep sense of the sweetness of doing nothing, 
and an indifference to all purposes and chances. If ever 
you cared to have your name on men's tongues, behold I 
that old yearning for applause is dead. Praise would 
strike like pain through this delicious calm. And blame ? 
It is a wild and frantic thing to dare it by any effort. 
Repose takes you to her inmost heart, and you learn her 
secrets — arcana unintelligible to you in the new- world 
life of bustle and struggle. Old lines of lazy rhyme win 
new color and meaning. The mystical, indolent poems 
whose music once charmed away the will to understand 
them, are revealed now without your motion. Now, at 
last, you know why 

" It was an Abyssinian maid " 

who played upon the dulcimer. And Xanadu? It is the 
land in which you were born ! 

The slumbrous bells murmur to each other in the 
lagoons; the white sail faints into the white distance; 
the gondola slides athwart the sheeted silver of the 
bay ; the blind beggar, who seemed sleepless as fate, 
dozes at his post. 



V. OPERA AND THEATRES 

THE BEST VENETIAN THEATRES CLOSED UNDER AUS- 
TRIAN RULE — TRADITIONS OF OPERA — POPULAR 
PLAYHOUSES — THEATRE OF THE MARIONETTES — 
DRAMA OF THE PUPPETS — PUNCH-AND-JUDY SHOWS 
— GOLDONI'S COMEDIES AND THE COMEDY OF ART — 
A LOVE LETTER FOUND IN THE LAGOON. 

WITH the winter the amusement which, in 
spite of the existing political demonstration, 
I had drawn from the theatres came to an 
end. The Fenice, the great theatre of the city, being the 
property of private persons, has not been opened since 
the discontents of the Venetians were intensified in 1859; 
and it will not be opened, they say, till Victor Emanuel 
comes to honor the ceremony. Though not large, and 
certainly not so magnificent as the Venetians think, the 
Fenice is a superb and tasteful theatre. The best opera 
was formerly given in it, and now that it is closed, the 
musical drama, of course, suffers. The Italians seldom 
go to it, and as there is not a sufficient number of for- 
eign residents to support it in good style, the opera 
commonly conforms to the character of the theatre San 
Benedetto, in which it is given, and is second-rate. It 
is nearly always subsidized by the city, but nobody 
need fall into the error, on this account, of supposing 
that it is as cheap to the opera-goer as it is in the little 
German cities. A box does not cost a great deal ; but 



OPERA AND THEATRES 6i 

as the theatre is carried on in Italy by two different man- 
agements, — one of which receives the money for the 
boxes and seats, and the other the fee of admission to 
the theatre, — there is always the demand of the latter 
to be satisfied with nearly the same outlay as that for 
the box, before you can reach your place. The pit is 
fitted up with seats, of course, but you do not sit down 
there without paying. So, most Italians (who, if they 
go at all, go without ladies) and the poorer sort of 
government officials stand ; the orchestra seats are re- 
served for the officers of the garrison. The first row of 
boxes, which is on a level with the heads of people in 
the pit, is well enough, but rank and fashion take a lof- 
tier flight, and sit in the second tier. 

You look about in vain, however, for that old life of 
the theatre which once formed so great a part of Vene- 
tian gayety, — the visits from box to box, the gossip- 
ing between the acts, and the half-occult flirtations. The 
people in the boxes are few, the dressing not splendid, 
and the beauty is the blond, unfrequent beauty of the 
German aliens. Last winter being the fourth season that 
the Italians had defied the temptation of the opera, 
some of the Venetian ladies yielded, but went plainly 
dressed, and sat far back in boxes of the third tier, and 
when they issued forth after the opera were veiled be- 
yond recognition. The audience usually takes its en- 
joyment quietly ; hissing now and then for silence in the 
house, and clapping hands for applause, without calling 
bravo, — an Italian custom habitual with foreigners ; 
with Germans, for instance, who spell it with a/ andyC 



62 VENETIAN LIFE 

I 

I FANCY that to find good Italian opera you must seek 
it somewhere out of Italy, — at London, or Paris, or New 
York, — though possibly it might be chanced upon at 
La Scala in Milan, or San Carlo in Naples. The cause 
of the decay of the musical art in Venice must be looked 
for among the events which seem to have doomed 
her to decay in everything ; certainly it cannot be dis- 
cerned in any indifference of the people to music. The 
dimostrasione keeps the better class of citizens from 
the opera, but the passion for it still exists in every 
order. You hear the airs of opera sung as commonly 
upon the streets in Venice as our own colored melodies 
at home ; and the street-boy when he sings has an in- 
born sense of music and a power of execution which 
put to shame the tenuity of sound that sometimes 
issues from the northern mouth — 

** That frozen, passive, palsied breathing-hole." 

In the days of the Fenice there was a school for the 
ballet at that theatre, but this is now an imported ele- 
ment of the opera in Venice. No novices appear on 
her stages, and the musical conservatories of the place, 
which were once so famous, have long ceased to exist. 
The musical theatre was very popular in Venice as early 
as the middle of the seventeenth century ; and the care 
of the state for the drama existed from the first. The 
government, which always piously forbade the repre- 
sentation of Mysteries, and, as the theatre advanced, 



OPERA AND THEATRES 63 

even prohibited plays containing characters from the 
Old or New Testament, began about the close of the 
century to protect and encourage the instruction of 
music in the different foundling hospitals and public 
refuges in the city. The young girls in these institutions 
were taught to play on instruments, and to sing, at 
first for the alleviation of their own dull and solitary life, 
and afterward for the delight of the public. In the merry 
days that passed just before the fall of the Republic, the 
Latin oratorios which they performed in the churches 
attached to the hospitals were among the most fashion- 
able diversions in Venice. The singers were taught by 
the best masters of the time; and at the close of the 
last century, the conservatories of the Incurables, the 
Foundlings, and the Mendicants were famous through- 
out Europe for their dramatic concerts, and noted for 
those pupils who found the transition from oratorio 
to opera natural and easy. 

II 

With increasing knowledge of the language, I learned 
to enjoy best the unmusical theatre, and went oftener 
to the comedy than the opera. It is hardly by any chance 
that the Italians play ill, and I have seen excellent act- 
ing at the Venetian theatres, both in the modern Italian 
comedy, which is very rich and good, and in the elder 
plays of Goldoni, — compositions deliciously racy when 
seen in Venice, where alone their admirable fidelity of 
drawing and of coloring can be perfectly appreciated. 
The best comedy is usually given to the educated 



64 VENETIAN LIFE 

classes at the pretty Teatro Apollo, while a bloodier 
and louder drama is offered to the populace at Teatro 
Malibran, where on a Sunday night you may see the 
plebeian life of the city in one of its most entertaining 
and characteristic phases. The sparings of the whole 
week which have not been laid out for chances in the 
lottery, are spent for this evening's amusement; and in 
the vast pit you see, besides the families of comfortable 
artisans who can evidently afford it, a multitude of the 
ragged poor, whose presence, even at the low rate of 
eight or ten soldi apiece (the soldo is the hundredth 
part of the Austrian florin, which is worth about forty- 
nine cents of American money), it is hard to account for. 
It is very peremptory, this audience, in its likes and dis- 
likes, and applauds and hisses with great vehemence. 
It likes best the sanguinary local drama ; it cheers and 
cheers again every allusion to Venice ; and when the 
curtain rises on some well-known Venetian scene, it 
has out the scene-painter by name three times — which 
is all the police permits. The auditors wear their hats 
in the pit, but deny that privilege to the people in the 
boxes, and raise stormy and wrathful cries of Cappello / 
till they uncover. Between acts, the people indulge in 
excesses of water flavored with anise, and even go to 
the extent of candied nuts and fruits, which are hawked 
about the theatre, and sold for two soldi the stick, 
with the tooth-pick on which they are spitted thrown 
into the bargain. 

The Malibran Theatre is well attended on Sunday 
night, but the one entertainment which never fails of 



OPERA AND THEATRES 65 

drawing and delighting full houses is the theatre of the 
puppets, or the Marionettes, and thither I like best 'to 
go. The Marionettes prevail with* me, for I find in the 
performances of these puppets no new condition de- 
manded of the spectator, but rather a frank admission 
of unreality that makes every shadow of verisimilitude 
delightful, and gives a fresh relish to the immemorial 
effects and traditionary tricks of the stage. 

The little theatre of the puppets is at the corner of 
a narrow street opening from the Calle del Ridotto, 
and is of tiny dimensions and the simplest appointments. 
There are no boxes, and you pay ten soldi to go into 
the pit, where you are much more comfortable than 
the aristocrats who have paid fifteen for places in the 
dress-circle above. The stage is very small, and the 
scenery a kind of coarse miniature painting. But it is 
very complete, and everything is contrived to give relief 
to the puppets and to produce an illusion of magni- 
tude in their figures. They are very artlessly introduced, 
and are manoeuvred, according to the exigencies of the 
scene, by means of cords running from their heads, 
arms, and legs to the top of the stage. To the manage- 
ment of the cords they owe the vehemence of their pas- 
sions and the grace of their oratory, not to mention a 
certain gliding locomotion, altogether spectral. 

The drama of the Marionettes is of a more elevated 
and ambitious tone than that of the Burattini, which 
exhibit their vulgar loves and coarse assassinations in 
Punch-and-Judy shows on the Riva and in the larger 
squares ; but the standard characters are nearly the 



66 VENETIAN LIFE 

same with both, and are all descended from the commedia 
delV arte which flourished on the Italian stage before 
the time of Goldoni. I am very far from disparaging the 
Burattini, which have great and peculiar merits, not the 
least of which is the art of drawing the most delighted, 
dirty, and picturesque audiences. Like most of the 
Marionettes, they converse vicariously in the Venetian 
dialect, and have such a rapidity of utterance that it is 
difficult to follow them. I only remember to have made 
out one of their comedies, — a play in which an ingen- 
ious lover procured his rich and successful rival to be 
arrested for lunacy, and married the disputed young 
person while the other was raging in the mad-house. 
This play is performed to enthusiastic audiences ; but 
for the most part the favorite drama of the Burattini 
appears to be a sardonic farce, in which the chief char- 
acter — a puppet ten inches high, with a fixed and star- 
ing expression of Punch-like good-nature and wicked- 
ness — deludes other and weaker-minded puppets into 
trusting him, and then beats them with a club upon 
the back of the head until they die. The murders of 
this infamous creature, which are always executed in a 
spirit of jocose sangfroidy and accompanied by humor- 
ous remarks, are received with the keenest relish by 
the spectators ; and, indeed, the action is every way 
worthy of applause. The dramatic spirit of the Italian 
race seems to communicate itself to the puppets, and 
they perform their parts with a fidelity to theatrical un- 
naturalness which is wonderful. I have witnessed death 
agonies on these little stages which the great American 



OPERA AND THEATRES 67 

tragedian himself (whoever he may now happen to be) 
could not surpass in degree of energy; The Burattini 
deserve the greater credit because they are agitated 
by the legs from below the scene, and not managed by 
cords from above, as at the Marionette Theatre. Their 
audiences, as I said, are always interesting, and com- 
prise : first, boys ragged and dirty in inverse ratio to 
their size; then frail little girls, supporting immense 
babies; then Austrian soldiers, with long coats and 
short pipes ; lumbering Dalmatian sailors ; a transient 
Greek or Turk ; Venetian loafers, pale-faced, statuesque, 
with the drapery of their cloaks thrown over their shoul- 
ders ; young women, with bare heads of thick black 
hair ; old women, all fluff and fangs ; wooden-shod 
peasants, with hooded cloaks of coarse brown ; then 
boys — and boys. They all enjoy the spectacle with 
approval, and take the drama seriously, uttering none 
of the gibes which sometimes attend efforts to please in 
our own country. Even when the hat, or other instru- 
ment of extortion, is passed round, and they give no- 
thing, and when the manager, in an excess of fury and 
disappointment, calls out, ** Ah I sons of dogs 1 I play 
no more to you I'* and closes the theatre, they quietly 
and unresentfully disperse. Though, indeed, fioi de cam 
means no great reproach in Venetian parlance ; and 
parents of the lower classes caressingly address their 
children in these terms ; but to call one Figure of a Pig, 
is to wreak upon him the deadliest insult which can be 
put into words. 

In the commedia delV arte^ before mentioned as the 



68 VENETIAN LIFE 

inheritance of the Marionettes, the dramatist furnished 
merely the plot^ and the outline of the action ; the players 
filled in the character and dialogue. With any people 
less quick-witted than the Italians, this sort of comedy 
must have been insufferable ; but it formed the delight 
of that people till the middle of the eighteenth century, 
and even after Goldoni went to Paris he furnished his 
Italian players with the commedia delV arte, I have heard 
some very passable ^^^^ at the Marionette, but the real 
commedia delV arte no longer exists, and its familiar 
and invariable characters perform written plays. 

Facanapa is a modern addition to the old stock of 
dramatis personaey and he is now without doubt the 
popular favorite in Venice. He is, like Pantalon, a 
Venetian ; but whereas the latter is always a merchant, 
Facanapa is anything that the exigency of the play de- 
mands. He is a dwarf, even among puppets, and his 
dress invariably consists of black knee-breeches and 
white stockings, a very long, full-skirted black coat, 
and a three-cornered hat. His individual traits are dis- 
played in all his characters, and he is ever a coward, a 
boaster, and a liar, a glutton and a miser, but withal of 
an agreeable bonhomie that wins the heart. To tell the 
truth, I care little for the plays in which he has no part, 
and I have learned to think a certain trick of his — lifting 
his leg rigidly to a horizontal line, by way of emphasis, 
and saying, "Capissela?" or "Sa la?'* (You under- 
stand? You know?) — one of the finest things in the 
world. 



OPEkA AND THEATRES 69 

III 

In nearly all of Goldoni's Venetian comedies, and in 
many which he wrote in Italian, appear the standard 
associates of Facanapa, — Arlecchino, il Dottore, Pan- 
talon dei Bisognosi, and Brighella. The reader is at first 
puzzled by their constant recurrence, but never weary of 
Goldoni's witty management of them. They are the chief 
persons of the obsolete commedia delV artey and have 
their nationality and peculiarities marked by immemo- 
rial attribution. Pantalon is a Venetian merchant, rich, 
and commonly the indulgent father of a willful daughter 
or dissolute son, figuring also sometimes as a childless 
uncle of large fortune. The second old man is il Dottore, 
who is a Bolognese, and a doctor of the University. 
Brighella and Arlecchino are both of Bergamo. The 
one is a sharp and roguish servant, busy-body, and ras- 
cal ; the other is dull and foolish, and always masked 
and dressed in motley — a gibe at the poverty of the 
Bergamasks, among whom, moreover, the extremes of 
stupidity and cunning are most usually found, accord- 
ing to the popular notion in Italy. 

The plays of the Marionettes are written expressly 
for them, and are much shorter than the standard 
drama as it is known to us. They embrace, however, a 
wide range of subjects, from lofty melodrama to broad 
farce, as you may see by looking at the advertisements 
in the Venetian gazettes for any week past, where per- 
haps you shall find the plays performed to have been : 
The Ninety-nine Misfortunes of Facanapa ; Arlecchino, 



70 VENETIAN LIFjfi 

the Sleeping King; Facanapa as Soldier in Catalonia ; 
the Capture of Smyrna, with Facanapa and Arlecchino 
Slaves in Smyrna (this play being repeated several 
nights); and Arlecchino and Facanapa Hunting an 
Ass. If you can fancy people going night after night 
to this puppet drama, and enjoying it with the keenest 
appetite, you will not only do something toward realiz- 
ing to yourself the easily pleased Italian nature, but 
you will also suppose great excellence in the theatrical 
management. For my own part, I find few things in life 
equal to the Marionettes. I am never tired of their be- 
witching absurdity, their inevitable defects, their irre- 
sistible touches of verisimilitude. At their theatre I 
have seen the relenting parent (Pantalon) twitchingly 
embrace his erring son, while Arlecchino, as the large- 
hearted cobbler who has paid the house rent of the err- 
ing son when the prodigal was about to be cast into the 
street, looked on and rubbed his hands with amiable 
satisfaction and the conventional delight in benefaction 
which we all know. I have witnessed the base terrors 
of Facanapa at an apparition, and I have beheld the 
keen spiritual agonies of the Emperor Nicholas on hear- 
ing of the fall of Sebastopol. Not many passages of 
real life have affected me as deeply as the atrocious 
behavior of the brutal baronial brother-in-law, when he 
responds to the expostulations of his friend, the Knight 
of Malta, — a puppet of shaky and vacillating presence, 
but a soul of steel and rock : — 

"Why, O baron, detain this unhappy lady in thy 
dungeons? Remember, she is thy brother's wife. Re- 



OPERA AND THEATRES 71 

member thine own honor. Think on the sacred name 
of virtue." (Wrigglingly, with a set countenance, and 
gesticulations toward the pit.) 

To which the ferocious baron makes answer with a 
sneering laugh, " Honor ? — I know it not ! Virtue ? — I 
detest it I" and attempting to pass the knight, in order to 
inflict fresh indignities upon his sister-in-law, he yields 
to the natural infirmities of pasteboard, and topples 
against him. 

Facanapa, also, in his great scene of the Haunted Poet, 
is tremendous. You discover him in bed, too much visited 
by the Muse to sleep, and reading his manuscripts aloud 
to himself, after the manner of poets when they cannot 
find other listeners. He is alarmed by various ghostly 
noises in the house, and is often obliged to get up and 
examine the dark corners of the room, and to look under 
the bed. When at last the spectral head appears at the 
footboard, Facanapa vanishes, with a miserable cry, 
under the bedclothes, and the scene closes. Intrinsically 
the scene is not much, but this great actor throws into it 
a life, a spirit, a drollery wholly irresistible. 

The ballet at the Marionettes is a triumph of choregra- 
phic art. The prima ballerina has all the difficult grace 
and far-fetched arts of ^o, prima ballerina of flesh and 
blood ; and when the enthusiastic audience calls her back 
after the scene, she is humanly delighted, and acknow- 
ledges the compliment with lifelike empressement I have 
no doubt the corps de ballet have their private jealousies 
and bickerings, when quietly laid away in boxes, and de- 
prived of all positive power by the removal of the cords 



72 VENETIAN LIFE 

which agitate their arms and legs. The puppets are great 
in pirouette and pas setil ; but I think the strictly dra- 
matic part of such spectacular ballets as The Fall of 
Carthage is their strong point. 

IV 

The people who witness their performances are of all 
ages and conditions, — I remember once seeing a Rus- 
sian princess and some German countesses in the pit, 
— but the greater number of spectators are young men 
of the middle classes, pretty shop-girls, and artisans and 
their wives and children. The little theatre is a kind of 
trysting-place for lovers in humble life, and there is a 
great deal of amusing drama going on between the acts, 
in which the invariable Beppi and Nina of the Venetian 
populace take the place of the invariable Arlecchino and 
Facanapa of the stage. I one day discovered a letter at 
the bottom of the Canal of the Giudecca, to which watery 
resting-place some recreant, addressed as " Caro Anto- 
nio," had consigned it ; and from this letter I came to 
know certainly of at least one love-affair at the Marion- 
ettes. "Caro Antonio" was humbly besought, "if his 
heart still felt the force of love," to meet the writer (who 
softly reproached him with neglect) at the Marionettes 
the night of date, at six o'clock ; and I would not like 
to believe he could resist so tender a prayer, though 
perhaps it fell out so. I fished up through the lucent 
water this despairing little epistle, — it was full of wo- 
manly sweetness and bad spelling, — and dried away its 
briny tears on the blade of my oar. If ever I thought to 



OPERA AND THEATRES 73 

keep it, with some vague purpose of offering it to any 
particularly anxious-looking Nina at the Marionettes 
as the probable writer — its unaccountable loss spared 
me the delicate office. Still, however, when I go to see 
the puppets, it is with an interest divided between the 
drolleries of Facanapa, and the sad presence of ex- 
pectation somewhere among the groups of dark-eyed 
girls there, who wear such immense hoops under such 
greasy dresses, who part their hair at one side, and call 
each other " Cio I " Where art thou, O fickle and cruel, 
yet ever dear Antonio? All unconscious, I think, — 
gallantly posed against the wall, thy slouch hat brought 
forward to the point of thy long cigar, the arms of thy 
velvet jacket folded on thy breast, and thy earrings 
softly twinkling in the light. 



VI. RESTAURANT DINNERS AND DINERS 

PERMANENCE OF RESTAURANT LIFE IN ITALY — 
ITALIAN TEMPERANCE IN EATING AND DRINKING — 
ONE FULL MEAL A DAY — "COME EAT FOUR GRAINS 
OF RICE WITH ME." — CAFE ACQUAINTANCE — EASY 
CAFE HOSPITALITY — DRAMATIC MANNERS OF THE 
WAITERS — THE CLAMOR IN THE RESTAURANTS — 
COOK-SHOPS OF LOWER GRADES — EATING-HOUSES 
OF THE GONDOLIERS AND FACCHINI — HOLIDAY 
VIANDS. 

WHEN I first came to Venice, I accepted the 
fate appointed to young men on the Con- 
tinent: I took lodgings, and I began din- 
ing drearily at the restaurants. Worse prandial fortunes 
may befall one, but it is hard to conceive of the con- 
tinuance of so great unhappiness elsewhere ; while the 
restaurant life is an established and permanent thing 
in Italy, for every bachelor and for many forlorn fami- 
lies. It is not because the restaurants are very dirty -^— 
if you wipe your plate and glass carefully before using 
them, they need not offend you ; it is not because the 
rooms are cold — if you sit near the great vase of 
smouldering embers in the centre of the room, you may 
suffocate in comparative comfort ; it is not because the 
prices are great — they are really very reasonable; it is 
not for any very tangible fault that I object to life at 
the restaurants ; and yet I cannot think of its hopeless 



RESTAURANT DINNERS AND DINERS 75 

homelessness without rebellion against the whole system 
it implies, as something unnatural and insufferable. 

I 

Before we come to look closely at this aspect of 
Italian civilization, it is better to look first at a very 
noticeable trait of Italian character, — temperance in 
eating and drinking. As to the poorer classes, one ob- 
serves without great surprise how slenderly they fare, 
and how, with a great habit of talking of meat and 
drink, the verb mangiare remains for the most part 
inactive with them. But it is only just to say that this 
virtue of abstinence seems to be not wholly the result 
of necessity, for it prevails with classes which could 
well afford the opposite vice. Meat and drink do not 
form the substance of conviviality with Venetians, as 
with the Germans and the English, and in degree with 
ourselves; and I have often noticed on the Mondays- 
of-the-Gardens, and other social festivals of the people, 
how the crowd amused itself with anything — music, 
dancing, walking, talking — anything but the great 
northern pastime of gluttony. Knowing the life of the 
place, I make quite sure that Venetian gayety is on few 
occasions connected with repletion ; and I am ashamed 
to confess that I have not always been able to repress a 
feeling of stupid scorn for the empty stomachs every- 
where, which do not even ask to be filled, or, at least, do 
not insist upon it. The truth is, the North has a gloomy 
pride in surfeit, which unfits her children to appreciate 
the cheerful prudence of the South. 



76 "^VENETIAN LIFE 

Venetians eat one full meal a day, which is dinner. 
They breakfast on a piece of bread, with coffee and milk ; 
supper is a little cup of black coffee, or an ice, taken 
at a cafe. The coffee, however, is repeated frequently 
throughout the day; and in the summer-time fruit is 
eaten, but eaten sparingly, like everything else. As to 
the nature of the dinner, it of course varies somewhat 
according to the nature of the diner ; but in most fami- 
lies of the middle class a dinner at home consists of a 
piece of boiled beef, a minestra (a soup thickened with 
vegetables, tripe, and rice), a vegetable dish of some 
kind, and the wine of the country. The. failings of the 
repast among all classes lean to the side of simplicity, 
and the abstemious character of the Venetian finds suf- 
ficient comment in his familiar invitation to dinner: 
" Venga a mangiar quattro risi con meP (Come eat four 
grains of rice with me.) 

But invitations to dinner have never formed a prime 
element of hospitality in Venice. Goldoni notices this 
fact in his memoirs, and speaking of the city in the early 
half of the last century, he says that the number and 
excellence of the eating-houses in the city made invita- 
tions to dinner at private houses rare and superfluous, 
among the courtesies offered to strangers. 

The Venetian does not, like the Spaniard, place his 
house at your disposition, and, having extended this 
splendid invitation, consider the duties of hospitality 
fulfilled ; he does not appear to think you want to make 
use of his house for social purposes, preferring himself 
the cafe, and finding home and comfort there, rather 



RESTAURANT DINNERS AND DINERS 77 

than under his own roof. "What cafe do you frequent ? 
Ah ! so do I. We shall meet often there." This is fre- 
quently your new acquaintance's promise of friendship. 
And one may even learn to like the social footing on 
which people meet at the cafe, as well as that of the 
dining-room or drawing-room. I could not help think- 
ing one evening at Padua, while we sat talking with 
some pleasant Paduans in one of the splendid saloons of 
the Caffe Pedrocchi, that I should like to go there for 
society, if I could always find it there, much better than 
to private houses. There is far greater ease and freedom, 
more elegance and luxury, and not the slightest weight 
of obligation laid upon you for the gratification your 
friend's company has given you. One has not to be a 
debtor in the sum of a friend's outlay for house, servants, 
refreshments, and the like. Nowhere in Europe is the 
senseless and wasteful American custom of treating 
known ; and nothing could be more especially foreign 
to the frugal instincts and habits of the Italians. When 
a party of friends at a cafe eat or drink, each one pays 
for what he takes, and pecuniarily the enjoyment of the 
evening is uncostly or not, according as each prefers. 
Of course no one sits down in such a place without 
calling for something ; but I have frequently seen people 
respond to this demand of custom by ordering a glass 
of water with anise, at the expense of two soldi. A cup 
of black coffee, for five soldi, secures a chair, a table, 
and as many journals as you like, for as long time as 
you like. 

I say, a stranger may learn to like the life of the cafe, 



78 VENETIAN LIFE 

— that of the restaurant never ; though the habit of fre- 
quenting the restaurants, to which Goldoni somewhat 
vaingloriously refers, seems to have grown upon the 
Venetians with the lapse of time. The eating-houses are 
almost without number, and are of every degree, from 
the shop of the sausage-maker, who supplies gondo- 
liers and facchini with bowls of sguassetto, to the Cafie 
Florian. They all have names which are not strange 
to European ears, but which are sufficiently amusing to 
people who come from a land where nearly every pub- 
lic thing is named from some impulse of patriotism or 
local pride. In Venice the principal restaurants are 
called The Steamboat, The Savage, The Little Horse, 
The Black Hat, and The Pictures; and I do not 
know that any one of them is more uncomfortable 
or noisy than another, or that any one of them suffers 
from the fact that all are bad. 

II 

You do not get breakfast at the restaurant for the rea- 
son, before stated, of the breakfast's unsubstantiality. 
The dining commences about three o'clock in the after- 
noon, and continues till nine o'clock, most people dining 
at five or six. As a rule the attendance is insufficient, and 
no guest is served until he has made a savage clapping 
on the tables, or clinking on his glass or plate. Then a 
hard-pushed waiter appears, and calls out, dramatically, 
" Behold me ! " takes the order, shrieks it to the cook, 
and returning with the dinner, cries out again, still more 
dramatically, " Behold it ready I " and arrays it with a 



RESTAURANT DINNERS AND DINERS 79 

great flourish on the table. I have often dined in hotels 
to the music of a brass band ; but I did not find that so 
bewildering, so destructive of the individual savor of the 
dishes, and so conducive to absent-minded gluttony, as 
I at first found the constant rush and clamor of the wait- 
ers in the Venetian restaurants. The guests are, for the 
most part, patient and quiet enough, eating their mines- 
tra and boiled beef in such peace as the surrounding 
uproar permits them, and seldom making acquaintance 
with each other. Perhaps the gill of the fiendish wine 
of the country, which they drink at their meals, is rather 
calculated to chill than warm the heart. But, in any case, 
a drearier set of my fellow-beings I have never seen, — 
and I conceive that their life in lodgings, at the cafe and 
the restaurant, remote from the society of women and 
all the higher privileges of fellowship for which men 
herd together, is at once the most insipid, the most selfish, 
and the most comfortless life in the world. 

The families that share the exile of the eating-houses 
sometimes make together a feeble buzz of conversation, 
but the unfriendly spirit of the place seems soon to silence 
them. Undoubtedly they frequent the restaurant for eco- 
nomy's sake. Fuel is costly, and the restaurant is cheap, 
and its cooking better than they could perhaps other- 
wise afford to have. Indeed, so cheap is the restaurant 
that actual experience proved the cost of a dinner there 
to be little more than the cost of the raw material in the 
market. From this inexpensiveness comes also the cus- 
tom, which is common, of sending home meals from the 
eating-houses. 



8o VENETIAN LIFE 

III 

As one descends in the scale of the restaurants, the differ- 
ence is not so noticeable in the prices of the same dishes, 
as in the substitution of cheaper varieties of food. At the 
best eating-houses, the French traditions bear sway more 
or less ; but in the poorer sort the cooking is done entirely 
by artists deriving their inspirations from the unsophis- 
ticated tastes of exclusively native diners. It is perhaps 
needless to say that they grow characteristic and pic- 
turesque as they grow cheap, until at last the cook-shop 
perfects the descent with a triumph of raciness and local 
coloring. The cook-shop in Venice opens upon you at al- 
most every turn, — everywhere, in fact, but in the Piazza 
and the Merceria, — and looking in, you see its vast heaps 
of frying fish, and its huge caldrons of ever-boiling broth 
which smell to heaven with garlic and onions. In the al- 
luring windows smoke golden mountains of polenta (a 
thicker kind of mush or hasty-pudding, made of Indian 
meal, and universally eaten in North Italy), platters of 
crisp minnows, bowls of rice, roast poultry, dishes of snails 
and liver ; and around the fascinating walls hang huge 
plates of bronzed earthenware for a lavish and a hospit- 
able show, and for the representation of those scenes of 
Venetian story which are modeled upon them in bass- 
relief. Here I like to take my unknown friend — my fac- 
chino or gondolier — as he comes to buy his dinner, and 
bargains eloquently with the cook, who stands with a 
huge ladle in his hand capable of skimming mysterious 
things from vasty deeps. I am spellbound by the drama 



RESTAURANT DINNERS AND DINERS 8i 

which ensues, and in which all the chords of the human 
heart are touched, from those that tremble at high trag- 
edy, to those that are shaken by broad farce. When the 
diner has bought his dinner, and issues forth with his 
polenta in one hand, and his fried minnows or stewed 
snails in the other, my fancy fondly follows him to his 
gondola station, where he eats it, and quarrels volubly 
with other gondoliers across the Grand Canal. 

A simpler and less ambitious sort of cook-shop 
abounds in the region of Rialto, where on market morn- 
ings I have seen it driving a prodigious business with 
peasants, gondoliers, and laborers. Its more limited re- 
sources consist chiefly of fried eels, fish, polenta, and 
sguassetto. The latter is a true ropa veneziana^ and is a 
high-flavored broth, made of those desperate scraps of 
meat which are found impracticable even by the sausage- 
makers. Another, but more delicate dish, peculiar to the 
place, is the clotted blood of poultry, fried in slices with 
onions. A great number of the families of the poor break- 
fast at these shops very abundantly, for three soldi each 
person. 

In Venice every holiday has its appropriate viand. 
During carnival all the butter and cheese shop- windows 
are whitened with the snow of whipped cream — panna 
montata. At San Martino the bakers parade troops of 
gingerbread warriors. Later, for Christmas, comes man- 
dorlatOy which is a candy made of honey and enriched 
with almonds. In its season only can any of these devo- 
tional delicacies be had ; but there is a species of crul- 
ler, fried in oil, which has all seasons for its own. On the 



82 VENETIAN LIFE 

occasion of every festay and of eYevy sagra (the holiday 
of one parish only), stalls are put up in the squares for the 
cooking and sale of these crullers, between which and the 
religious sentiment proper to the whole year there seems 
to be some occult relation. 

In the winter, the whole city appears to abandon her- 
self to cooking for the public, till she threatens hopelessly 
to disorder the law of demand and supply. There are, 
to begin with, the cafes and restaurants of every class. 
Then there are the cook-shops, and the poulterers', and 
the sausage-makers'. Then, also, every fruit-stall is 
misty and odorous with roast apples, boiled beans, cab- 
bage, and potatoes. The chestnut-roasters infest every 
corner, and men, women, and children cry roast pump- 
kin at every turn — till, at last, hunger seems an absurd 
and foolish vice, and the ubiquitous beggars, no less 
than the habitual abstemiousness of every class of the 
population, become the most perplexing of anomalies. 



VII. HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 

LODGINGS AND APARTMENTS — BEGINNINGS OF VENE- 
TIAN HOUSEKEEPING — NEIGHBORS — THE FLOWER 
OF SERVING-WOMEN — THE WOODMAN AND OTHER 
TRADESMEN — FOLLOWERS AND HANGERS-ON — THE 
CREATURES — THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF THE 
FLOWER OF SERVING-WOMEN — PARTING WITH HER. 

I HOPE that it is by a not unnatural progress I pass 
from speaking of dinners and diners to the kindred 
subject of the present chapter, and I trust the reader 
will not disdain the lowly-minded muse that sings this 
mild domestic lay. I was resolved in writing this book to 
tell — what I had found most books of travel very slow 
to tell — as much as possible of the every-day life of 
a people whose habits are so different from our own ; 
endeavoring to develop a just notion of their character, 
not only from the show-traits which strangers are most 
likely to see, but also from experience of such things 
as strangers are almost likely to miss. 

I 

The absolute want of society of my own nation in Ven- 
ice would have thrown me upon study of the people for 
my amusement, even if I had cared to learn nothing of 
them; and the necessity of economical housekeeping 
would have caused me to live in the frugal Venetian 
fashion, even if I had been disposed to remain a for- 



84 VENETIAN LIFE 

eigner in everything. Of bachelor lodgings I had suffi- 
cient experience during my first year ; but as most pru- 
dent travelers who visit the city for a week take lodg- 
ings, I need not describe my own particularly. You can 
know the houses in which there are rooms to let, by the 
squares of white paper fastened to the window-shutters ; 
and a casual glance as you pass through the streets 
gives you the idea that the chief income of the place is 
derived from letting lodgings. Carpetless, dreary bar- 
racks the rooms usually are, with an uncompromising 
squareness of prints upon the wall, an appalling breadth 
of husk-bed, a niggardness of wash-bowl, and an ob- 
duracy of sofa, never, never to be dissociated in their 
victim's mind from the idea of the hard bread of Venice 
on which the gloomy landlady nurtures her purposes of 
plunder. Flabbiness without softness is the tone of these 
discouraging chambers, which are dear or not accord- 
ing to the season and the situation. On the sunlit Riva 
during winter, and on the Grand Canal in summer, they 
are costly enough, but they are to be found on nearly all 
the squares at reasonable rates. On the narrow streets, 
where most native bachelors have them, they are ab- 
surdly cheap. 

A house, or casa^ in Venice means a number of rooms, 
including a whole story in a building, or part of it only, 
but always completely separated from the story above 
and below, or from the other rooms on the same floor. 
Every house has its own entrance from the street, or 
by a common hall and stairway from the ground-floor, 
where are the cellars or store-rooms, while each kitchen 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 85 

is usually on a level with the other rooms of the house 
to which it belongs. The isolation of the different fami- 
lies is secured (as perfectly as where a building is solely 
appropriated to each), either by the exclusive posses- 
sion of a street-door, or by the unsocial domestic habits 
of Europe. Where the street entrance is in common, 
every floor has its bell, which, being sounded, summons 
a servant to some upper window with the demand, very 
formidable to strangers, ''Chixe?^' (Who is it?) But you 
do not answer with your name. You reply, ''AmiciP'' 
(Friends !), on which reassurance the servant draws the 
latch of the door by a wire running upward to her hand, 
and permits you to enter and wander about at your 
leisure till you reach her secret height. This is suppos- 
ing the master or mistress of the house to be at home. 
If they are not in, she answers your '^Amici!^^ with 
'^ No ghe ne xeP^ (Nobody here!), and lets down a bas- 
ket by a string outside the window, and fishes up your 
card. 

You bow and give good-day to the people whom you 
meet in the common hall and on the common stairway, 
but you rarely know more of them than their names, 
and you certainly care nothing about them. The so- 
ciability of Europe, and more especially of Southern 
Europe, is shown abroad; under the domestic roof it 
dwindles and disappears. And indeed it is no wonder, 
considering how dispiriting and comfortless most of 
the houses are. The lower windows are heavily barred 
with iron ; the wood-work is rude, even in many palaces 
in Venice ; the rest is stone and stucco ; the walls are 



S6 VENETIAN LIFE 

not often papered, though they are sometimes painted : 
the most pleasing and inviting feature of the interior is 
the frescoed ceiling of the better rooms. The windows 
shut imperfectly, the heavy wooden blinds imperviously 
(is it worth while to note that there are no Venetian 
blinds in Venice ?) ; the doors lift slantingly from the 
floor, in which their lower hinges are imbedded ; the 
stoves are of plaster, and consume fuel without just re- 
turn of heat; the balconies alone are always charming, 
whether they hang high over the streets, or look out 
upon the canals, and, with the gayly painted ceilings, 
go far to make the houses habitable. 

In Venice most of the desirable situations are on the 
Grand Canal ; but here the rents are something absurdly 
high, when taken in consideration with the fact that 
the city is not made a place of residence by foreigners, 
like Florence, and that it has no commercial activity to 
enhance the cost of living. House-hunting, under these 
circumstances, becomes an ofhce of constant surprise 
and disconcertment to the stranger. You look, for ex- 
ample, at a suite of rooms in a tumble-down old palace, 
where the walls, shamelessly smartened up with coarse 
paper, crumble at your touch ; where the floor rises and 
falls like the sea, and the door-frames and window- 
cases have long lost recollection of the plumb. Madama 
la Baronessa is at present occupying this pleasant 
apartment, and you only gain admission after an em- 
bassy to procure her permission. Madama la Baronessa 
receives you courteously, and you pass through her 
rooms, which are a little in disorder, the Baronessa 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 87 

being on the point of removal. Madama la Baronessa^s 
hoop-skirts prevail upon the floors ; and at the side of 
the couch which her form lately pressed in slumber, 
you observe a French novel and a wasted candle in the 
society of a half-bottle of the wine of the country. A bed- 
roomy smell pervades the whole suite, and through the 
open window comes a curious stench, explained as the 
odor of Madama la Baronessa's guinea-pigs, of which she 
is so fond that she has had their sty placed immediately 
under her window in the garden. It is this garden 
which has first taken your heart, with a glimpse caught 
through the great open door of the palace. It is dis- 
ordered and wild, but so much the better ; its firs are 
very thick and dark, and there are certain statues, fauns, 
and nymphs, which weather stains and mosses have 
made much decenter than the sculptor intended. You 
think that for this garden's sake you could put up with 
the house, which must be very cheap. What is the price 
of the rooms? you ask of the smiling landlord. He an- 
swers, without winking, "If taken for several years, 
a thousand florins a year." At which you suppress the 
whistle of disdainful surprise, and say you think it will 
not suit. He calls your attention to the sun, which comes 
in at every side, which will roast you in summer, and 
will not (as he would have you think) warm you in 
winter. "But there is another apartment," — through 
which you drag languidly. It is empty now, being last 
inhabited by an English Ledi, — and her stove-pipes 
went out of the windows, and blackened the shabby 
stucco front of the palace. 



88 VENETIAN LIFE 

In a back court, upon a filthy canal, you chance on a 
house, the curiously frescoed front of which tempts you 
within. A building which has a lady and gentleman 
painted in fresco, and making love from balcony to bal- 
cony, on the fagade, as well as Arlecchino depicted in 
the act of leaping from the second to the third story, 
promises something. Promises something, but does not 
fulfill the promise. The interior is fresh, clean, and new, 
and cold and dark as a cellar. This house — that is to 
say, a floor of the house — you may have for four hun- 
dred florins a year; and then farewell the world and 
the light of the sun ! for neither will ever find you in 
that back court, and you will never see anybody but the 
neighboring laundresses and their children, who cannot 
enough admire the front of your house. 

E via in seguito! This is of housekeeping, not house- 
hunting. There are pleasant and habitable houses in 
Venice, but they are not cheap, as many of the unin- 
habitable houses also are not. Here, discomfort and 
ruin have their price, and the tumble-down is patched 
up and sold at rates astonishing to innocent strangers, 
who come from countries in good repair, where the 
tumble-down is worth nothing. If I were not ashamed 
of the idle and foolish old superstitions in which I 
once believed concerning life in Italy, I would tell how 
I came gradually to expect very little for a great deal ; 
and how a knowledge of many houses to let made 
me more and more contented with the house we had 
taken. 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 89 

II 

It was in one corner of an old palace on the Grand 
Canal, and the window of the little parlor looked down 
upon the water, which had made friends with its painted 
ceiling, and bestowed tremulous, golden smiles upon it 
when the sun shone. The dining-room was not so much 
favored by the water, but it gave upon some green and 
ever-rustling treetops, that rose to it from a tiny garden- 
ground, no bigger than a pocket handkerchief. Through 
this window, also, we could see the quaint, picturesque 
life ol the canal ; and from another room we could reach 
a little terrace above the water. We were not in the ap- 
partamento signorile, — that was above, — but we were 
more snugly quartered on the first story from the ground- 
floor, commonly used as a winter apartment in the old 
times. But it had been cut up, and suites of rooms had 
been broken according to the caprice of successive land- 
lords, till it was not at all palatial any more. The upper 
stories still retained something of former grandeur, and 
had acquired with time more than former discomfort. 
We were not envious of them, for they were humbly 
let at a price less than we paid ; though we could not 
quite repress a covetous yearning for their arched and 
carven windows, which we saw sometimes from the 
canal, above the tops of the garden trees. 

The gondoliers used always to point out our palace 
(which was called Casa Falier) as the house in which 
Marino Faliero was born ; and for a long time we clung 
to the hope that it might be so. But however pleasant 



90 VENETIAN LIFE 

it was, we were forced, on reading up the subject a little, 
to relinquish our illusion, and accredit an old palace at 
Santi Apostoli with the distinction we would fain have 
claimed for ours. I am rather at a loss to explain how 
it made our lives in Casa Falier any pleasanter to think 
that a beheaded traitor had been born in it, but we 
relished the superstition amazingly as long as we could 
believe in it. What went far to confirm us at first in our 
credulity was the residence, in another part of the pal- 
ace, of the Canonico Falier, a collateral descendant of 
the unhappy doge. He was a very mild-faced old priest, 
with a white head, which he carried downcast, and crim- 
son legs, on which he moved feebly. He owned the 
rooms in which he lived, and the apartment in the front 
of the palace just above our own. The rest of the house 
belonged to another, for in Venice many of the palaces 
are divided up and sold among different purchasers, 
iloor by floor, and sometimes even room by room. 

Ill 

But the tenantry of Casa Falier was far more various 
than its proprietorship. Over our heads dwelt a Dalma- 
tian family ; below our feet a Frenchwoman ; at our 
right, upon the same floor, the English Vice Consul ; un- 
der him a French family ; and over him the family of a 

marquis in exile from Modena. Except with Mr. , 

the Vice Consul, who was at once our friend and land- 
lord (impossible as this may appear to those who know 
anything of landlords in Italy), we had no acquaint- 
ance, beyond that of salutation, with the many nations 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 91 

represented in our house. We could not help holding 
the French people in some sort responsible for the in- 
vasion of Mexico ; and, though opportunity offered for 
cultivating the acquaintance of the Modenese, we did not 
improve it. 

As for our Dalmatian friends, we met them and 
bowed to them a great deal, and we heard them over- 
head in frequent athletic games, involving noise as of 
the manoeuvring of cavalry ; and as they stood a good 
deal on their balcony, and looked down upon us on 
ours, we sometimes enjoyed seeing them admirably 
foreshortened like figures in a frescoed ceiling. The 
father of this family had no other occupation but to 
walk up and down the city and view its monuments, for 
which purpose he one day informed us he had left his 
native place in Dalmatia, after forty years' study of 
Venetian history. He further told us that this was by no 
means worth the time given it ; that whereas the streets 
of Venice were sepulchres in point of narrowness and 
obscurity, he had a house in Zara, from the windows 
of which you might see for miles uninterruptedly ! 
Every evening he marched solemnly at the head of a 
procession of his handsome young children, who went 
to hear the military music in St. Mark's Square. 

The entrance to the house of the Dalmatians — we 
never knew their names — gave access also to a house in 
the story above them, which belonged to some mysteri- 
ous person described on his door-plate as ** Co. Prata." 
I think we never saw Co. Prata himself, and only by 
chance some members of his family when they came 



92 VENETIAN LIFE 

back from their summer in the country to spend the win- 
ter in the city. Prata's " Co.," we gradually learned, 
meant " Conte," and the little counts and countesses, his 
children, immediately on their arrival took an active 
part in the exercises of the Dalmatian cavalry. Later in 
the fall, certain of the count's vassals came to the riva 
(the gondola landing-stairs which descend to the water 
before palace-doors and at the ends of streets), in one 
of the great boats of the Po, with a load of fagots and 
corncobs for fuel ; and this is all we ever knew of our 
neighbors on the fourth floor. As long as he remained 
" Co." we yearned to know who and what he was ; being 
interpreted as Conte Prata, he ceased to interest us. 

Such, then, was the house, and such the neighborhood 
in which two little people, just married, came to live 
in Venice. They were by nature of the order of shorn 
lambs, and Providence, tempering the inclemency of 
the domestic situation, gave them Giovanna. The house 
was furnished throughout, and Giovanna had been fur- 
nished with it. She was at hand to greet the newcomers, 
and "This is my wife, the new mistress," said the young 
Paron {Padrone in Italian ; a salutation with Venetian 
friends, and the title by which Venetian servants always 
designate their employers), with the bashful pride proper 
to the time and place. 

Giovanna glowed welcome, and said, with adven- 
turous politeness, that she was very glad of it. " Serva 
sua I " 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 93 

The Paronuy not knowing Italian, laughed in English. 

So Giovanna took possession of us, and acting upon 
the great truth that handsome is that handsome does, 
began at once to make herself a thing of beauty. 

As a measure of convenience and of deference to her 
feelings, we immediately resolved to call her G., merely, 
when speaking of her in English, instead of Giovanna, 
which would have troubled her with conjecture concern- 
ing what was said of her. And as G. thus became the 
centre around which our domestic life revolved, she 
must be somewhat particularly treated of in this account 
of our housekeeping. I suppose that, given certain tem- 
peraments and certain circumstances, this would have 
been much like play-housekeeping anywhere; in Venice 
it had, but for the unmistakable florins it cost, a curious 
property of unreality. It is sufficiently bad to live in a 
rented house ; in a house which you have hired ready- 
furnished, it is long till your life takes root, and Home 
blossoms up in the alien place. For a great while we 
regarded our house merely as very pleasant lodgings, 
and we were slow to form any relations which could 
take from our residence its temporary character. If we 
had thought to get in debt to the butcher, the baker, 
and the grocer, we might have gone far to establish 
ourselves at once ; but we imprudently paid our way, 
and consequently had no ties to bind us to our fellow- 
creatures. In Venice provisions are bought by house- 
keepers on a scale surprisingly small to one accustomed 
to wholesale American ways, and G., having the purse, 
made our little purchases in cash, never buying more 



94 VENETIAN LIFE 

than enough for one meal at a time. Every morning, 
the fruits and vegetables are distributed from the great 
market at the Rialto among a hundred green-grocers* 
stalls in all parts of the city ; bread (which is seldom made 
at home) is found fresh at the baker's ; there is a butch- 
er's stall in each campo, with fresh meat. These shops 
are therefore resorted to for family supplies day by day ; 
and the poor lay in provisions there in portions gradu- 
ated to a soldo of their ready means. It is a system 
friendly to poverty, and the small retail prices approxi- 
mate very closely the real value of the stuff sold, as we 
sometimes proved by offering to purchase in quantity. 
Usually no reduction would be made from the retail 
rate, and it was sufficiently amusing to have the dealer 
figure up the cost of the quantity we proposed to buy, 
and then exhibit an exact multiplication of his retail rate 
by our twenty or fifty. Say an orange is worth a soldo : 
you get no more than a hundred for a florin, though 
the dealer will cheerfully go under that number if he 
can cheat you in the count. 

But there were some things which must be brought 
to the house by the dealers, such as water for drink- 
ing and cooking, which is drawn from public cisterns in 
the squares, and carried by stout young girls to all the 
houses. These bigolanti all come from the mountains 
of Friuli ; they all have rosy cheeks, white teeth, bright 
eyes, and no waists whatever (in the fashionable sense), 
but abundance of back. The cisterns are opened about 
eight o'clock in the morning, and then their day's work 
begins, with chatter, and splashing, and drawing up 



lJwr^:¥^''^;K>Vu;u:.': 






i ^nT 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 95 

buckets from the wells ; and each sturdy little maiden 
in turn trots off under a burden of two buckets, — one 
appended from either end of a bow resting upon the 
right shoulder. The water is the rain which falls on 
the shelving surface of the campo, and soaks through 
a bed of sea-sand around the cisterns into the cool 
depths below. The bigolante comes every morning 
and empties her brazen buckets into the great pictur- 
esque jars of porous earthenware which ornament Vene- 
tian kitchens ; and the daily supply of water costs a 
moderate family about a florin a month. 

V 

Fjel is likewise brought to your house, but this arrives 
in boats. It is cut on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, 
and comes to Venice in small coasting vessels, each of 
which has a plump captain in command, whose red face 
is so cunningly blended with his cap of scarlet flannel 
that it is hard on a breezy day to tell where the one 
begins and the other ends. These vessels anchor off the 
Custom House in the Giudecca Canal in the fall, and lie 
there all winter (or until their cargo of fuel is sold), a 
great part of the time under the charge solely of a small 
yellow dog of the irascible breed common to the boats 
of the Po. Thither the retail dealers in fire-wood re- 
sort, and carry thence supplies of fuel to all parts of the 
city, melodiously crying their wares up and down the 
canals, and penetrating the land on foot with specimen 
bundles of fagots in their arms. They are not, as a class, 
imaginative, I think — their fancy seldom rising beyond 



96 VENETIAN LIFE 

the invention that their fagots are beautiful and sound 
and dry. But our particular woodman was, in his way, 
a gifted man. Long before I had dealings with him, I 
knew him by the superb incantation with which he an- 
nounced his coming on the Grand Canal. The purport 
of this was merely that his bark was called the Beautiful 
Caroline, and that his fagots were fine ; but he so dwelt 
upon the hiciden beauties of this idea, and so prolonged 
their effect upon the mind by artful repetition and the 
full, round, and resonant roar with which he closed his 
triumphal hymn, that the hearer was taken with the 
charm, and held in breathless admiration. By all odds, 
this woodman's cry was the most impressive of all the 
street cries of Venice. There may have been an exquisite 
sadness and sweetness in the wail of the chimney-sweep ; 
a winning pathos in the voice of the vender of roast 
pumpkin ; an oriental fancy and splendor in the fruiter- 
ers who cried, "Melons with hearts of fire!" and "Juicy 
"pears that bathe your beard ! " — there may have been 
something peculiarly effective in the song of the chest- 
nut-man who shouted " Fat chestnuts," and added, after 
a lapse in which you got almost beyond hearing, " and 
well cooked ! " — I do not deny that there was a seduc- 
tive! sincerity in the proclamation of one whose peaches 
could not be called beautiful to look upon, and were 
consequently advertised as " Ugly, but good!" — I say 
nothing to detract from the merits of harmonious chair- 
menders ; — to my ears the shout of the melodious fish- 
erman was delectable music, and all the birds of summer 
sang in the voices of the countrymen who sold finches 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 97 

and larks in cages, and roses and pinks in pots ; — but 
I say, after all, none of these people combined the vocal 
power, the sonorous movement, the delicate grace, and 
the vast compass of our woodman. Yet this man, as far 
as virtue went, was vox et praeterea nihil. He was habit- 
ually in drink, and I think his sins had gone near to 
make him mad — at any rate, he was of a most lunatical 
deportment. In other lands, the man of whom you are a 
regular purchaser serves you well ; in Italy he conceives 
that his long service gives him the right to plunder 
you if possible. I felt in every fibre that this woodman 
invariably cheated me in measurement, and, indeed, he 
scarcely denied it on accusation. But my single expe- 
rience of the more magnificent scoundrels of whom he 
bought the wood originally, contented me with the swin- 
dle with which I had become familiarized. On this occa- 
sion I took a boat and went to the Custom House, to 
get my fuel at first hand. The captain of the ship which 
I boarded wished me to pay more than I gave for fuel 
delivered at my door, and thereupon ensued the tragic 
scene of bargaining, as these things are conducted in 
Italy. We stood up and bargained, we sat down and 
bargained ; the captain turned his back upon me in 
indignation ; I parted from him and took to my boat 
in scorn ; he called me back and displayed the wood — 
good, sound, dryer than bones ; he pointed to the threat- 
ening heavens, and declared that it would snow that 
night, and on the morrow I could not get wood for 
twice the present price ; but I laughed incredulously. 
Then my captain took another tack, and tried to make 



98 VENETIAN LIFE 

the contract in obsolete currencies, in Austrian pounds, 
in Venetian pounds; but as I inexorably reduced these 
into familiar money, he paused desperately, and made 
me an offer which I accepted with mistaken exultation. 
For my captain was shrewder than I, and held arts of 
measurement in reserve against me. He agreed that 
the measurement and transportation should not cost 
me the value of his tooth-pick — quite an old and worth- 
less one — which he showed me. Yet I was surprised 
into the payment of a youth whom this man called to 
assist at the measurement, and I had to give the boat- 
man drink-money at the end. He promised that the 
measure should be just : yet if I lifted my eye from the 
work he placed the logs slantingly on the measure, and 
threw in knotty chunks that crowded wholesome fuel 
out, and let the daylight through and through the pile. 
I protested, and he admitted the wrong when I pointed 
it out. " Ga rasoUy lu I^^ (He ^s right !) he said to his 
fellows in infamy; and throwing aside the objectionable 
pieces, proceeded to evade justice by new artifices. 
When I had this memorable load of wood housed at 
home, I found that it had cost just what I paid my 
woodman ; I had additionally lost my self-respect in 
being plundered before my face, and I resolved there- 
after to be cheated in quiet dignity behind my back. 
The woodman exulted in his restored sovereignty, and 
I lost nothing in penalty for my revolt. 

Among other provisioners who come to your house 
in Venice are those ancient peasant-women who bring 
fresh milk in bottles, carefully packed in baskets filled 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 99 

with straw. They set ofE the whiteness of their wares by 
the brownness of their sunburned hands and faces, and 
bear, in their general stoutness and burliness of pre- 
sence, a curious resemblance to their own comfortable 
bottles. They wear broad straw hats and dangling ear- 
rings of yellow gold, and are the pleasantest sight of 
the morning streets of Venice, to the stoniness of which 
they bring a sense of the country's clovery pasturage, 
in the milk just drawn from the great cream-colored 
cows. 

Fishermen, also, come down the little calli — with 
shallow baskets of fish upon their heads and under either 
arm, and cry their soles and mackerel to the neighbor- 
hood, stopping now and then at some door to bargain 
away the eels which they chop into sections as the 
thrilling drama proceeds, and hand over as a denoue- 
ment at the purchaser's own price. " Beautiful and all 
alive!" is the engaging cry with which they hawk their 
fish. 

Besides these daily purveyors, there are men of divers 
arts who come to exercise their crafts at your house : 
not chimney-sweeps merely, but glaziers, and tffat sort 
of workmen, and, best of all, chair-menders, — who bear 
a mended chair upon their shoulders for a sign, with 
pieces of white wood for funher mending, a drawing- 
knife, a hammer, and a sheaf of rushes, and who sit 
down at your door, and plait the rush bottoms of your 
kitchen chairs anew, and make heaps of fragrant whit- 
tlings with their knives, and gossip with your serving- 
woman. 



loo VENETIAN LIFE 

VI 

But in the mean time our own serving-woman Gio- 
vanna, the great central principle of our housekeep- 
ing, is waiting to be personally presented to the com- 
pany. In Italy, there are old crones so haggard that it 
is hard not to believe them created just as crooked, 
and foul, and full of fluff and years as you behold 
them, and you cannot understand how so much frow- 
ziness and so little hair, so great show of fangs and 
so few teeth, are growths from any ordinary human 
birth. G. is no longer young, but she is not after the 
likeness of these old women. It is of a middle age, un- 
beginning, interminable, of which she gives you the 
impression. She has brown apple-cheeks, just touched 
with frost ; her nose is of a strawberry formation, abound- 
ing in small dints, and having the slightly shrunken 
effect observable in tardy perfections of the fruit men- 
tioned. A tough, pleasant, indestructible woman — for 
use, we thought, not ornament — the mother of a 
family, a good Catholic, and the flower of serving- 
womeif. 

I do not think that Venetian servants are, as a class, 
given to pilfering; but knowing ourselves subject by 
nature to pillage, we cannot repress a feeling of grati- 
tude to G. that she does not prey upon us. She strictly 
accounts for all money given her at the close of each 
week, and to this end keeps a kind of account-book, 
which I cannot help regarding as in some sort an in- 
spired volume, being privy to the fact, confirmed by her 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE loi 

own confession, that G. is not good for reading and 
writing. On settling with her I have been permitted to 
look into this book, which is all in capital letters, — 
each the evident result of serious labor, — with figures 
representing combinations of the pot-hook according to 
bold and original conceptions. The spelling is also a 
remarkable effort of creative genius. The only diffi- 
culty under which the author labors in regard to the 
book is the confusion naturally resulting from the effort 
to get literature right side up when it has got upside 
down. The writing is a kind pf pugilism — the strokes 
being made straight out from the shoulder. The ac- 
count-book is always carried about with her in a fath- 
omless pocket overflowing with the aggregations of 
a housekeeper who can throw nothing away, to wit: 
match-boxes, now appointed to hold buttons and hooks 
and eyes ; beeswax in the lump ; the door-key (which in 
Venice takes a formidable size, and impresses you at 
first sight as ordnance) ; a patch-bag ; a porte-monnaie ; 
many lead-pencils in the stump; scissors, pincushions, 
and the Beata Vergine in a frame. Indeed, this incapa- 
bility of throwing things away is made to bear rather 
severely upon us in some things, such as the continual 
reappearance of familiar dishes at table — particularly 
veteran bifsteca. But we fancy that the same frugal 
instinct is exercised to our advantage and comfort in 
other things, for G. makes a great show and merit of 
denying our charity to those bold and adventurous 
children of sorrow who do not scruple to ring your 
doorbell and demand alms. It is true that with G., 



I02 VENETIAN LIFE 

as with every Italian, almsgiving enters into the theory 
and practice of the Christian life, but she will not suffer 
misery to abuse its privileges. She has no hesitation, 
however, in bringing certain objects of compassion to 
our notice, and she procures small services to be done 
for us by many lame and halt of her acquaintance. 
Having bought my boat (I come, in time, to be will- 
ing to sell it again for half its cost to me), I require a 
menial to clean it now and then, and Giovanna first calls 
me a youthful Gobbo for the work, — a festive hunch- 
back, a bright-hearted whistler of comic opera. Whether 
this blithe humor is not considered decent, I do not 
know, but though the Gobbo serves me faithfully, I 
find him one day replaced by a venerable man, whom 
— from his personal resemblance to Time — I should 
think much better occupied with an hour-glass, or en- 
gaged with a scythe in mowing me and other mortals 
down, than in cleaning my boat. But all day long he 
sits on my riva in the sun, when it shines, gazing fixedly 
at my boat ; and when the day is dark, he lurks about 
the street, accessible to my slightest boating impulse. 
He salutes my going out and coming in with grave 
reverence, and I think he has no work to do but that 
which G.'s wise compassion has given him from me. 
Suddenly, like the Gobbo, the Vecchio also disappears, 
and I hear vaguely — for in Venice you never know 
anything with precision — that he has found a regu- 
lar employment in Padua, and again that he is dead. 
While he lasts, G. has a pleasant, even a sportive man- 
ner with this poor old man, calculated to cheer his de- 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 103 

dining years ; but, as I say, cases of insolent and aggres- 
sive misery fail to touch her. The kind of wretchedness 
that comes breathing woe and sciampagnin (little cham- 
pagne, — the name which the Venetian populace gave 
to a fierce and deadly kind of brandy drunk during the 
scarcity of wine) under our window, and there spends 
a leisure hour in the rehearsal of distress, establishes 
no claim either upon her pity or her weakness. She is 
deaf to the voice of that sorrow, the monotonous whine 
of that dolor cannot move her to the purchase of a guilty 
tranquillity. I imagine, however, that she is afraid to 
deny charity to the fat Capuchin friar in spectacles and 
bare feet, who comes twice a month to levy contribu- 
tions of bread and fuel for his convent, for we hear her 
declare from the window that the master is not at home, 
whenever the good brother rings ; and at last, as this 
excuse gives out, she ceases to respond to his ring at 
all. 

Sometimes, during the summer weather, a certain 
tremulous old troubadour comes down our street, with 
an aged cithern, on which he strums feebly with the 
bones remaining to him from former fingers, and in a 
thin quavering voice pipes worn-out ditties of youth 
and love. Sadder music I have never heard ; but though 
it has at times drawn from me the sigh of sensibility 
without referring my sympathy to my pocket, I always 
hear the compassionate soldo of Giovanna clink re- 
proof to me upon the pavement. Perhaps that slender 
note touches something finer than habitual charity in 
her middle-aged bosom, for these were songs, she 



I04 VENETIAN LIFE 

says, that they used to sing when she was a girl, and 
Venice was gay and glad, and different from now — 
^^ Veratnente^ tutV altra^ signor T^ 

VII 

It is through Giovanna's charitable disposition that 
we make the acquaintance of two weird sisters, who 
live not far from us in Calle Falier, and whom we know 
to this day merely as the Creatures — creatura being in 
the vocabulary of Venetian pity the term for a fellow- 
being somewhat more pitiable than a poveretta. Our 
Creatures are both well stricken in years, and one of 
them has some incurable disorder which frequently 
confines her to the wretched cellar in which they live 
with the invalid's husband, — a mild, pleasant-faced 
man, a tailor by trade, and of batlike habits, who hovers 
about their dusky doorway in the summer twilight. 
These people have but one room, and a little nook of 
kitchen at the side ; and not only does the sun never 
find his way into their habitation, but even the daylight 
cannot penetrate it. They pay about four florins a 
month for the place, and I hope their landlord is as 
happy as his tenants. For though one is sick, and all 
are wretchedly poor, they are far from being discon- 
tented. They are opulent in the possession of a small 
dog, which they have raised from the cradle, as it were, 
and adopted into the family. They are never tired of 
playing with their dog, — the poor old children, — and 
every slight display of intelligence on his part delights 
them. They think it fine in him to follow us as we go by, 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 105 

but pretend to beat him ; and then they excuse him, and 
call him ill names, and catch him up, and hug him and 
kiss him. He feeds upon their slender means and the 
pickings that G. carefully carries him from our kitchen, 
and gives to him on our doorstep in spite of us, while 
she gossips with his mistresses, who chorus our appear- 
ance at such times with **/ miei rispettiy signori T'' 
We often see them in the street, and at a distance from 
home, carrying mysterious bundles of clothes; and at 
last we learn their vocation, which is one not known 
out of Italian cities, I think. There, instead of many 
pawnbroker's shops, there is one large municipal pawn- 
shop, which is called the Monte di Pieta, where the 
needy pawn their goods. The system is centuries old in 
Italy, but there are people who to this day cannot sum- 
mon courage to repair in person to the Mount of Pity, 
and, to meet their wants, there has grown up a class of 
frowzy old women who transact the business for them, 
and receive a small percentage for their trouble. Our 
poor old Creatures were of this class, and as there were 
many persons in impoverished, decaying Venice who 
had need of the succor they procured, they made out 
to earn a living when both were well, and to eke out 
existence by charity when one was ill. They were harm- 
less neighbors, and I believe they regretted our re- 
moval, when this took place, for they used to sit down 
under an arcade opposite our new house, and spend 
the duller intervals of trade in the contemplation of our 
windows. 



io6 VENETIAN LIFE 

VIII 

THE.alarming spirit of nepotism which Giovanna devel- 
oped at a later day was, I fear, a growth from the en- 
couragement we gave her charitable disposition. But for 
several months it was merely from the fact of a boy who 
came and whistled at the door until Giovanna opened 
it and reproved him in the name of all the saints and 
powers of darkness, that we knew her to be a mother ; 
and we merely had her word for the existence of a hus- 
band, who dealt in poultry. Without seeing Giovanna's 
husband, I nevertheless knew him to be a man of downy 
exterior, wearing a canvas apron, thickly crusted with 
the gore of fowls, who sat at the door of his shop and 
plucked chickens forever, as with the tireless hand of 
Fate. I divined that he lived in an atmosphere of scalded 
pullet ; that three earthen cups of clotted chickens' blood, 
placed upon his window-shelf, formed his idea of an 
attractive display, and that he shadowed forth his con- 
ceptions of the beautiful in symmetrical rows of plucked 
chickens presenting to the public eye rear views em- 
bellished with a single feather erect in the tail of each 
bird ; that he must be, through the ethics of competi- 
tion, the sworn foe of those illogical peasants who bring 
dead poultry to town in cages, like singing birds. He 
turned out on actual acquaintance to be all I had pre- 
figured him, with the additional merit of having a large 
red nose, a sidelong, fugitive gait, and a hangdog coun- 
tenance. He furnished us poultry at rates slightly ad- 
vanced, I believe. 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 107 

As for the boy, he turned up after a while as a con- 
stant guest, and took possession of the kitchen. He came 
near banishment at one time for catching a large num- 
ber of sea-crabs in the canal, and confining them in a 
basket in the kitchen, which they left at the dead hour 
of night, to wander all over our house, — making a 
mysterious and alarming sound of snapping, like an 
army of death-watches, and eluding all efforts at cap- 
ture. On another occasion, he fell into the canal be- 
fore our house, and terrified us by going under twice 
before the arrival of the old gondolier, who called out 
to him '' Petta! petta!'' (Wait! wait!) as he placidly 
pushed his boat to the spot. Developing other disa- 
greeable traits, Beppo was finally driven into exile, 
from which he nevertheless furtively returned on holi- 
days. 

The family of Giovanna thus gradually encroaching 
upon us, we came also to know her mother, — a dread 
and loathly old lady, whom we commonly encountered 
at nightfall in our street, where she lay in wait, as it were, 
to prey upon the fragrance of the dinner drifting from 
the kitchen windows of our neighbor, the Duchess of 
Parma. We did not find her more comfortable in our 
own kitchen, 'where we often saw her. The place itself 
is weird and terrible, — low-ceiled, with the stone hearth 
built out into the room, and the melodramatic imple- 
ments of Venetian cookery dangling tragically from 
the wall. Here is no every-day cheerfulness of cooking- 
range, but grotesque andirons wading into the bris- 
tling embers, and a long crane with villainous pots gib- 



io8 VENETIAN LIFE 

beted upon it. When Giovanna's mother, then (of the 
Italian hags, haggard), rises to do us reverence from 
the darkest corner of this kitchen, and croaks her good 
wishes for our long life, continued health, and endless 
happiness, it has the effect upon our spirits of the dark- 
est malediction. 

Not more pleasing, though altogether lighter and 
cheerfuler, was Giovanna's sister-in-law, whom we knew 
only as the Cognata. Making her appearance first upon 
the occasion of Giovanna's sickness, she slowly but 
surely established herself as an habitual presence, and 
threatened at one time, as we fancied, to become our 
paid servant. But a happy calamity, which one night 
carried off a carpet and the window curtains of an unoc- 
cupied room, cast an evil suspicion upon the Cognata, 
and she never appeared after the discovery of the theft. 
We suspected her of having invented some dishes of 
which we were very fond, and we hated her for oppress- 
ing us with a sense of many surreptitious favors. Objec- 
tively, she was a slim, hoopless little woman, with a ten- 
dency to be always at the street-door when we opened 
it. She had a narrow, narrow face, with eyes of terrible 
slyness, an applausive smile, and a demeanor of slavish 
patronage. Our kitchen, after her addition to the house- 
hold, became the banqueting-hall of Giovanna's family, 
who dined there every day upon dishes of fish and gar- 
lic, that gave the house the general savor of a low cook- 
shop. 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE 109 

IX 

As for Giovanna herself, she had the natural tendency 
of excellent people to place others in subjection. Our 
servitude at first was not hard, and consisted chiefly in 
the stimulation of appetite to extraordinary efforts when 
G. had attempted to please us with some novelty in 
cooking. She held us to a strict account in this respect ; 
but indeed our applause was for the most part willing 
enough. Her culinary execution, first revealing itself in 
a nobble rendering of our ideas of roast potatoes, — a 
delicacy foreign to the Venetian kitchen, — culminated 
at last in the same style oipolpetti (croquettes) which fur- 
nished forth the table of our neighbor, the Duchess, and 
was a perpetual triumph with us. 

But G.'s spirit was not wholly that of the serving- 
woman. We noted in her the liveliness of wit seldom 
absent from the Italian poor. She was a great babbler, 
and talked willingly to herself, and to inanimate things, 
when there was no other chance for talk. She was pro- 
fuse in maledictions of bad weather, which she held up 
to scorn as that dog of a weather. The crookedness of 
the fuel transported her, and she upbraided the fagots 
as springing from races of ugly old curs. (The vocabu- 
lary of Venetian abuse is inexhaustible, and the Vene- 
tians invent and combine terms of opprobrium with 
endless facility, but all abuse begins and ends with the 
attribution of doggishness.) The conscription was held 
in the campo near us, and G. declared the place to have 
become unendurable — '' propria un campo di sospiril " 



• no VENETIAN LIFE 

(really a field of sighs). ''Staga comodo !^^ she said to a 
guest of ours who would have moved his chair to let 
her pass between him and the wall. " Don^t move ; the 
way to Paradise is not wider than this." 

We sometimes lamented that Giovanna, who did not 
sleep in the house, should come to us so late in the 
morning ; but we could not deal harshly with her on that 
account, met, as we always were, with plentiful and 
admirable excuses. Who were we, indeed, to place our 
wishes in the balance against the welfare of the sick 
neighbor with whom Giovanna passed so many nights 
of vigil ? Should we reproach her with tardiness when 
she had not closed the eye all night for a headache 
properly of the devil ? If she came late in the morning, 
she stayed late at night ; and it sometimes happened 
that when the Paron and Parona, supposing her gone, 
made a stealthy expedition to the kitchen for cold 
chicken, they found her there at midnight in the fell 
company of the Cognata, bibbing the wine of the country 
and holding a mild Italian revel with that vinegar and 
the stony bread of Venice. 

I have said G. was the flower of serving- women ; and 
so at first she seemed, and it was long till we doubted 
her perfection. We knew ourselves to be very young, 
and weak, and unworthy. The Parona had the rare gift 
of learning to speak less and less Italian every day, and 
fell inevitably into subjection. The Paron in a domestic 
point of view was naturally nothing. It had been strange 
indeed if Giovanna, beholding the great contrast we 
presented to herself in many respects, had forborne to 



HOUSEKEEPING IN VENICE iii 

abuse her advantage over us. But we trusted her im- 
plicitly, and I hardly know how or when it was that we 
began to waver in our confidence. It is certain that 
with the lapse of time we came gradually to have 
breakfast at twelve o'clock instead of nine, as we had 
originally appointed it, and that G. grew to consume 
the greater part of the day in making our small pur- 
chases, and to give us our belated dinners at seven 
o'clock. We protested, and temporary reforms ensued, 
only to be succeeded by more hopeless lapses ; but it 
was not till all entreaties and threats failed that we 
began to think seriously it would be well to have done 
with Giovanna, as an unprofitable servant. I give the 
result, not all the nice causes from which it came. But 
the question was. How to get rid of a poor woman and 
a civil, and the mother of a family dependent in great 
part upon her labor ? We solemnly resolved a hundred 
times to dismiss G., and we shrank a hundred times 
from inflicting the blow. At last, we hit upon an artifice 
by which we could dispense with Giovanna, and keep 
an easy conscience. We had long ceased to dine at 
home, in despair ; and now we decided to take another 
house, in which there were other servants. But even 
then it was a sore struggle to part with the flower of 
serving- women, who was set over the vacated house to 
put it in order after our flitting, and with whom the 
imprudent Paron settled the last account in the familiar 
little dining-room, surrounded by the depressing influ- 
ences of the empty chambers. The place was peopled, 
after all, though we had left it, and I think the tenants 



112 VENETIAN LIFE 

who come after us will be haunted by our spectres, 
crowding them on the pleasant little balcony, and sitting 
down with them at table. G. stood there, the genius 
of the place, and wept six regretful tears, each one of 
which drew a florin from the purse of the Paron. She 
had hoped to remain with us always while we lived in 
Venice ; but now that she could no longer look to us for 
support, the Lord must take care of her. The gush of 
grief was transient; it relieved her, and she came out 
sunnily a moment after. The Paron went his way more 
sorrowfully, taking leave at last with the fine burst of 
Christian philosophy : " We are none of us masters of 
ourselves in this world, and cannot do what we wish. 
Ma ! Come si fa ? Ci vuol pasienza ! " Yet he was 
undeniably lightened in heart. He had cut adrift from 
old moorings, and had crossed the Grand Canal. G. did 
not follow him, nor any of the long line of pensioners 
who used to come on certain feast-days, to levy tribute 
-of eggs at the old house. (The postman was among 
these, on Christmas and New Year's, and as he received 
eggs at every house, it was a problem with us, unsolved 
to this hour, how he carried them all, and what he did 
with them.) Not the least among the Paron's causes 
for self-gratulation was the non-appearance at his new 
abode of two local newspapers, for which in an evil 
hour he had subscribed, which were delivered with un- 
sparing regularity, and which, being never read, formed 
the keenest reproach of his imprudent outlay and his 
idle neglect of their contents. 



VIII. THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 

THE WITCHERY OF VENICE — PASSERS ON THE GRAND 
CANAL — A FRESCO ON THE CANAL — BUSINESS CRAFT 
— A TERRIBLE QUARREL AND A WEIRD SPECTACLE. 

VENICE seems a fantastic vision, from which the 
world must at last awake some morning, and find 
that after all it has only been dreaming, and that 
there never was any such city. There our race seems to 
be in earnest in nothing. People sometimes work, but 
as if without any aim ; they suffer, and you fancy them 
playing at wretchedness. The Church of St. Mark, stand- 
ing so solidly, with a thousand years under the feet of 
its innumerable pillars, is not in the least gray with time. 

" All has suffered a sea-change • 
Into something rich and strange," 

in this fabulous city. The prose of earth has risen 
poetry from its baptism in the sea. 



If, living constantly in Venice, you sometimes for a lit- 
tle while forget how marvelous she is, at any moment 
you may be startled into vivid remembrance. The cun- 
ning city beguiles you street by street, and step by step, 
into some old court, where a flight of marble stairs 
leads high up to the pillared gallery of an empty 
palace, with a climbing vine, green and purple, on its 
old decay, and one or two gaunt trees stretching their 



114 VENETIAN LIFE 

heads to look into the lofty windows, — blind long ago 
to their leafy tenderness, — while at their feet is some 
richly carven well curb, with the beauty of the sculp- 
tor's soul wrought forever into the stone. Or Venice 
lures you in a gondola into one of her remote canals, 
where you glide through an avenue as secret and as 
still as if sea-deep under our work-day world ; where the 
grim stone heads over the water-gates of the palaces 
stare at you in austere surprise ; where the innumer- 
able balconies are full of the Absences of gay cavaliers 
and sprightly dames, gossiping and making love to one 
another, from their airy perches. Or if the city's mood 
is one of bolder charm, she fascinates you in the very 
places where you think her power is the weakest, and 
as if impatient of your forgetfulness, dares a wilder 
beauty, and enthralls with a yet more unearthly and 
incredible enchantment. It is in the Piazza, and the 
Austrian band is playing, and the promenaders pace 
solemnly up and down to the music, and the gentle 
Italian idlers at Florian's brood vacantly over their 
little cups of cofTee, and nothing can be more stupid ; 
when suddenly everything is changed, and a memorable 
tournament flashes up in many-glittering action upon 
the scene, and there, on the gallery of the church, be- 
fore the horses of bronze, sit the Senators, bright-robed, 
and in the midst the bonneted Doge with his guest 
Petrarch at his side. Or the old Carnival, which had 
six months of every year to riot in, comes back and 
throngs the place with a motley company, — dominos, 
harlequins, pantaloni, illustrissimi and illustrissime, and 



THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 115 

perhaps even the Doge himself, who has the right of 
incognito when he wears a little mask of wax at his but- 
ton-hole. Or may be the grander day revisits Venice, 
when Doria has sent word from his fleet of Genoese at 
Chioggia that he will listen to the Senate when he has 
bridled the horses of Saint Mark, — and the whole Re- 
public of rich and poor crowds the square, demanding 
the release of Pisani, who comes forth from his prison 
to create victory from the dust of the crumbling com- 
monwealth. 

But whatever surprise of memorable or beautiful Ven- 
ice may prepare for your forgetfulness, be sure it will 
be complete and resistless. But I must count as half 
lost the year spent in Venice before I took a house 
upon the Grand Canal. There alone can existence have 
the perfect local flavor. But by what witchery touched 
one^s being suffers the common sea-change, till life 
at last seems to ebb and flow with the tide in that 
wonder-avenue of palaces, it would be idle to attempt 
to tell. I can only take you to our dear little balcony 
at Casa Falier, and comment not very coherently on 
the scene upon the water under us. 

n 

I AM sure (since it is either in the spring or the fall) 
you will not be surprised to see, the first thing, a boat- 
load of those English, who go by from the station 
to their hotels, every day, in well-freighted gondolas. 
These parties of traveling Englishry are all singularly 
alike, from the *' party " traveling alone with his opera- 



ii6 VENETIAN LIFE 

glass and satchel, to the party which fills a gondola 
with well-cushioned English middle age, ruddy Eng- 
lish youth, and substantial English baggage. We have 
learned to known them all very well : the father and the 
mother sit upon the back seat, and their comely girls at 
the sides and front. These girls all have the roses of 
English health upon their cheeks ; they all wear little 
rowdy English hats, and blond waterfalls of hair tumble 
upon their broad English backs. They are coming from 
Switzerland and Germany, and they are going south to 
Rome and to Naples, and they always pause at Venice 
a few days. To-morrow we shall see them in the Piazza, 
and at Florian's, and St. Mark's, and the Ducal Pal- 
ace ; and the young ladies will cross the Bridge of Sighs, 
and will sentimentally feed the vagabond pigeons of St. 
Mark which loaf about the Piazza and defile the sculp- 
tures. But now our travelers are themselves very hun- 
.gry, and are chiefly anxious about the table d'h6te of 
their hotel, where it is perfectly certain that if they fall 
into talk there with any of our nation, the respectable 
English father will remark that this war in America is 
a very sad war, and will ask to know when it will all 
end. The truth is, Americans do not like these people, 
and I believe there is no love lost on the other side. 
But, in many things, they are travelers to be honored, 
if not liked: they voyage through all countries, and 
without awaking fervent affection in any land through 
which they pass ; but their sterling honesty and truth 
have made the English tongue a draft upon the unlim- 
ited confidence of the continental peoples. 



THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 117 

They come to Venice chiefly in the autumn, and 
October is the month of the Sunsets and the EngHsh. 
The sunsets are best seen from the PubHc Gardens, 
whence one looks westward, and beholds them glorious 
behind the domes and towers of San Giorgio Maggiore 
and the church of the Redentore. Sometimes, when 
the sky is clear, your sunset on the lagoon is a fine 
thing ; for then the sun goes down into the water with 
a broad trail of bloody red behind him, as if, wounded 
far out at sea, he had dragged himself landward across 
the crimsoning expanses, and fallen and died as he 
reached the land. But we (upon whom the idleness of 
Venice grows daily, and from whom the Gardens, there- 
fore, grow farther and farther) are uncommonly content 
to take our bit of sunset as we get it from our balcony, 
through the avenue opened by the narrow canal oppo- 
site. We like the earlier afternoon to have been a little 
rainy, when we have our sunset splendid as the fury of 
a passionate beauty — all tears and fire. There is a 
pretty but impertinent little palace on the corner which 
is formed by this canal as it enters the Canalazzo, and 
from the palace, high over the smaller channel, hangs 
an airy balcony. When the sunset sky, under and over 
the balcony, is of that pathetic and angry red which I 
have tried to figure, we think ourselves rich in the neigh- 
borhood of that part of the '' Palace of Art," whereon 

" The light aerial gallery, golden railed, 
Burnt like a fringe of fire." 

And so, after all, we do not think we have lost any 
greater thing in not seeing the sunset from the Gardens, 



ii8 VENETIAN LIFE 

where half a dozen artists are always painting it, or from 
the quay of the Zattere, where it is splendid over and 
and under the island church of San Giorgio in Alga. 

It is only the English and the other tourist strangers 
who go by upon the Grand Canal during the day. But 
in the hours just before the summer twilight the gon- 
dolas of the citizens appear, and then you may see what- 
ever is left of Venetian gayety, and looking down upon 
the groups in the open gondolas may witness some- 
thing of the home life of the Italians, who live out-of- 
doors. 

The groups do not vary a great deal one from an- 
other : inevitably the pale-faced papa, the fat mamma, 
the over-dressed handsome young girls. We learned to 
look for certain gondolas, and grew to feel a fond inter- 
est in a very mild young man who took the air in com- 
pany and contrast with a ferocious bull-dog. He was 
always smoking languidly, that mild young man, and I 
fancied in his countenance a gentle, gentle antagonism 
to life — the proportionate Byronic misanthropy, which 
might arise from sugar and water taken instead of gin. 
But we really knew nothing about him, and our conjec- 
ture was conjecture. Officers went by in their brilliant 
uniforms, and gave the scene an alien splendor. Among 
these we enjoyed best the spectacle of an old major, or 
perhaps general, in whom the arrogance of youth had 
stifTened into a chill hauteur, and who frowned above 
his gray overwhelming mustache upon the passers, 
like a citadel grim with battle and age. We used to 
fancy, with a certain luxurious sense of our own safety, 



THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 119 

that one broadside from those fortressed eyes could blow 
from the water the slight pleasure-boats in which the 
young Venetian idlers were innocently disporting. But 
again this was merely conjecture. The general's glance 
may have had no such power. Indeed, the furniture of 
our apartment sustained no damage from it, even when 
concentrated through an opera-glass, by which means 
the brave officer at times perused our humble lodging 
from the balcony of his own over against us. He may 
have been no more dangerous in his way than two aged 
sisters (whom we saw every evening) were in theirs. 
They represented Beauty in its most inexorable and 
persevering form, and perhaps they had one day been 
belles and could not forget it. They were very old in- 
deed, but their dresses were new and their paint fresh, 
and as they glided by in the good-natured twilight one 
had no heart to smile at them. We gave our smiles, and 
now and then our soldi, to the swarthy beggar, who, 
being short of legs, rowed up and down the canal in a 
boat, and overhauled Charity in the gondolas. He was 
a singular compromise, in his vocation and his equip- 
ment, between the mendicant and corsair: I fear he 
would not have hesitated to assume the pirate alto- 
gether in lonelier waters ; and had I been a heavily laden 
oyster-boat returning by night through some remote 
and dark canal, I would have steered clear of that 
truculent-looking craft, of which the crew must have 
fought with a desperation proportioned to the lack of 
legs and the difficulty of running away, in case of de- 
feat. 



I20 VENETIAN LIFE 

About nightfall came the market boats on their way 
to the Rialto market, bringing heaped fruit and vege- 
tables from the mainland ; and far into the night the 
soft dip of the oar and the gurgling progress of the 
boats was company and lullaby. By this time, if we 
looked out again, we found the moon risen, and the 
ghost of dead Venice spectrally happy in haunting the 
lonesome palaces, and the sea, which had so loved 
Venice, kissing and caressing the tide-worn marble 
steps where her feet seemed to rest 

III 

At night sometimes we saw from our balcony one of 
those freschiy which once formed the chief splendor of 
festive occasions in Venice, and are peculiar to the city, 
where alone their effects are possible. The fresco is 
a procession of boats with music and lights. Two im- 
mense barges, illumined with hundreds of paper lan- 
terns, carry the military bands ; the boats of the civil 
and military dignitaries follow, and then the gondolas 
of such citizens as choose to take part in the display, — 
though since 1859 ^^ Italian, unless a government offi- 
cial, has been seen in the procession. No gondola has 
less than two lanterns, and many have eight or ten, 
shedding mellow lights of blue, and red, and purple, 
over uniforms and silken robes. The soldiers of the 
bands breathe from their instruments music the most 
perfect and exquisite of its kind in the world ; and as 
the procession takes the width of the Grand Canal in 
its magnificent course, soft crimson flushes play upon 



THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 121 

the old, weather-darkened palaces, and die tenderly 
away, giving to light and then to shadow the opulent 
sculptures of pillar, and arch, and spandrel, and weirdly 
illuminating the grim and bearded visages of stone that 
peer down from doorway and window. It is a sight 
more gracious and fairy than ever poet dreamed ; and 
I feel that the lights and the music have only got into 
my description by name, and that you would not know 
them when you saw and heard them, from anything I 
say. In other days, people tell you, the fresco was much 
more impressive than now. At intervals, rockets used 
to be sent up, and the Bengal lights, burned during the 
progress of the boats, threw the gondoliers' shadows, 
giant-huge, on the palace walls. But, for my part, I do 
not care to have the fresco other than I know it : indeed, 
for my own selfish pleasure, I should be sorry to have 
Venice in any way less fallen and forlorn than she is. 

IV 

Without doubt the most picturesque craft ever seen 
on the Grand Canal are the great boats of the river Po, 
which, crossing the lagoons from Chioggia, come up 
to the city with the swelling sea. They are built with 
a pointed stern and bow rising with the sweep of a 
short curve from the water high above the cabin roof, 
which is always covered with a straw matting. Black is 
not the color of the gondolas alone, but of all boats in 
Venetia, and these of the Po are like immense funeral 
barges ; any one of them might be sent to take King 
Arthur and bear him to Avalon, whither I think most of 



122 VENETIAN LIFE 

them are bound. A path runs along either gunwale, on 
which the men pace as they pole the boat up the ca- 
nal, — her great sail folded and lying with the prostrate 
mast upon the deck. The rudder is a prodigious affair, 
and the man at the helm is commonly kind enough to 
wear a red cap with a blue tassel, and to smoke. The 
other persons on board are not less obliging and pic- 
turesque, from the dark-eyed young mother who sits 
with her child in her arms at the cabin-door, to the 
bronze boy who figures in play at her feet, with a small 
yellow dog of the race already noticed in charge of the 
fuel-boats from Dalmatia. The father of the family, 
whom we take to be the commander of the vessel, 
gracefully occupies himself in sitting down and gaz- 
ing at the babe and its mother. It is an old habit of 
mine, formed in childhood from looking at rafts upon 
the Ohio, to attribute, with a kind of heartache, su- 
preme earthly happiness to the navigators of lazy river 
craft ; and as we glance down upon these people from 
our balcony, I choose to think them immensely con- 
tented, and try, in a feeble, tacit way, to make friends 
with so much bliss. But I am always repelled in these 
advances by the small yellow dog, who is rendered ex- 
tremely irascible by my contemplation of the boat under 
his care, and who, ruffling his hair as a hen ruffles her 
feathers, never fails to bark furious resentment of my 
longing. 

Far different from the picture presented by this boat's 
progress — the peacefulness of which even the bad 
temper of the small yellow dog could not mar^ — was 



■>/■-■:- :-^WM'm 



THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 123 

another scene which we witnessed upon the Grand 
Canal, when one morning we were roused from our 
breakfast by a wild and lamentable outcry. Two large 
boats, attempting to enter the small canal opposite at 
the same time, had struck together with a violence 
that shook the boatmen to their inmost souls. One 
barge was laden with lime, and belonged to a plasterer 
of the city ; the other was full of fuel, and commanded 
by a virulent rustic. These rival captains advanced 
toward the bows of their boats, with murderous looks, 
" Con la test' alta e con rabbiosa fame, 
SI che parea che I'aer ne temesse," 

and there stamped furiously, and beat the wind with 
hands of deathful challenge, while I looked on with 
that noble interest which the enlightened mind always 
feels in people about to break each other's heads. 

But the storm burst in words. 

" Figure of a pig ! " shrieked the Venetian, " you 
have ruined my boat forever I '* 

** Thou liest, son of an ugly old dog 1 " returned the 
countryman, " and it was my right to enter the canal 
first." 

They then, after this exchange of insult, abandoned 
the main subject of dispute, and took up the quarrel 
laterally and in detail. Reciprocally questioning the 
reputation of all their womankind to the third and 
fourth cousins, they defied each other as the offspring 
of assassins and wantons. As the peace-making tide 
gradually drifted their boats asunder, their anger rose, 
and they danced back and forth and hurled opprobrium 



124 VENETIAN LIFE 

with a foamy volubility that quite left my powers of com- 
prehension behind. At last the townsman, executing a 
pas seul of uncommon violence, stooped and picked up 
a bit of lime, while the countryman, taking shelter at 
the stern of his boat, there attended the shot. To my 
infinite disappointment it was not fired. The Venetian 
seemed to have touched the climax of his passion in the 
mere demonstration of hostility, and gently gathering 
up his oar gave the countryman the right of way. The 
courage of the latter rose as the danger passed, and as 
far as he could be heard, he continued to exult in the 
wildest excesses of insult : " Ah-heigh ! brutal execu- 
tioner ! Ah, hideous headsman 1 '^ Da capo, I now know 
that these people never intended to do more than quar- 
rel, and no doubt they parted as well pleased as if they 
had actually carried broken heads from the encountero 
But at the time I felt trifled with by the result, for my 
disappointments arising out of the dramatic manner of 
the Italians had not yet been frequent enough to teach 
me to expect nothing from it 

There was some compensation for me — coming, 
like all compensation, a long while after the loss^in 
the spectacle of a funeral procession on the Grand 
Canal, which had a singular and imposing solemnity 
possible only to the place. It was the funeral of an Aus- 
trian general, whose coffin, mounted on a sable cata- 
falque, was borne upon the middle boat of the three that 
moved abreast. The barges on either side bristled with 
the bayonets of soldiery, but the dead man was alone 
in^ his boat, except for one strange figure that stood at 



THE BALCONY ON THE GRAND CANAL 125 

the head of the coffin, and rested its glittering hand 
upon the black fall of the drapery. This was a man 
clad cap-a-pie in a perfect suit of gleaming mail, with 
his visor down, and his shoulders swept by the heavy 
raven plumes of his helm. As at times he moved from 
side to side, and glanced upward at the old palaces, sad 
in the yellow morning light, he put out of sight, for me, 
everything else upon the canal, and seemed the ghost 
of some crusader come back to Venice, in wonder if 
this city, lying dead under the hoofs of the Croat, were 
indeed that same haughty Lady of the Sea who had 
once sent her blind old Doge to beat down the pride of 
an empire and disdain its crown. 



IX. A DAYBREAK RAMBLE 

FRESHNESS OF THE WORLD AT 4 A. M. — DREAMLIKE 
EFFECTS — PIAZZA AND CHURCH OF ST. MARK AT DAY- 
BREAK — MARKETING AT THE RIALTO — CHARACTER- 
ISTIC PERSONALITIES — THOUGHTFUL ASPECT OF 
THE GOBBO. 

ONE summer morning the mosquitoes played 
for me with sleep, and won. It was half past 
four, and as it had often been my humor to 
see Venice at that hour, I got up and went out for 
a stroll through the city. 



This morning walk did not lay the foundation of a 
habit of early rising in me, but I nevertheless advise 
people always to get up at half past four, if they wish 
to receive the most vivid impressions, and to take the 
most absorbing interest in everything in the world. It 
was with a feeling absolutely novel that I looked about 
me that morning; there was a breezy freshness and 
clearness in my perceptions altogether delightful, and I 
fraternized so cordially with Nature that I do not think, 
if I had sat down immediately after to write out the 
experience, I should have at all patronized her, as I am 
afraid scribbling people sometimes do. I know that my 
feeling of brotherhood in the case of two sparrows, 
which obliged me by hopping down from a garden wall 



A DAYBREAK RAMBLE 127 

at the end of Calle Falier and promenading on the 
pavement, was quite humble and sincere ; and that I 
resented the ill-nature of a cat, 

" Whom love kept wakeful and the muse," 

and who at that hour was spitefully reviling the morn 
from a window grating. As I went by the gate of the 
Canonica's little garden, the flowers saluted me with a 
breath of perfume, — I think the white honeysuckle was 
first to offer me this politeness, — and the dumpy little 
statues engagingly joined them. 

After passing the bridge, the first thing to do was to 
drink a cup of coffee at the Caff ^ Ponte di Ferro, where 
the eyebrows of the waiter expressed a mild surprise at 
my early presence. There was no one else in the place 
but an old gentleman talking thoughtfully to himself 
on the subject of two florins, while he poured his coffee 
into a glass of water, before drinking it. As I lingered 
a moment over my cup, I was reinforced by a company 
of soldiers, marching to parade in the Campo di Marte. 
Their officers went at their head, laughing and chatting, 
and one of the lieutenants, smoking a long pipe, gave 
me a feeling of satisfaction comparable only to that which 
I experienced shortly afterward in beholding a stoutly 
built small dog on the Ponte San Mois^. He was only a 
few inches high, and it must have been through some 
mist of dreams yet hanging about me that he impressed 
me as something elephantine. When I stooped down 
and patted him on the head, I felt colossal. 

On my way to the Piazza, I stopped in the church of 



128 VENETIAN LIFE 

Saint Mary of the Lily, where, in company with one 
other sinner, I found a reHsh in the early sacristan's de- 
liberate manner of lighting the candles on the altar. My 
fellow-sinner was kneeling, and repeating his prayers. 
He now and then tapped himself absent-mindedly on 
the breast and forehead, and gave a good deal of his 
attention to me as I stood at the door, hat in hand. 
The hour and the place invested him with so much 
interest, that I parted from him with emotion. My feel- 
ings were next involved by an abrupt separation from a 
young English East-Indian, whom I overheard asking 
the keeper of a cafe his way to the Campo di Marte. 
He was a claret-colored young fellow, tall, and wearing 
folds of white muslin around his hat. In another world 
I hope to know how he liked the parade that morning. 
I discovered that Piazza San Marco is every morning 
swept by troops of ragged facchini, who gossip noisily 
and quarrelsomely together over their work. Boot- 
blacks, also, were in attendance, and several followed 
my progress through the square, in the vague hope that 
I would relent and have my boots blacked. One peer- 
less waiter stood alone amid the desert elegance of Caff^ 
Florian, which is never shut, day or night, from year to 
year. At the Cafe of the Greeks, two individuals of the 
Greek nation were drinking coffee. 

II 

I WENT Upon the Molo, passing between the pillars of 
the Lion and the Saint, and walked freely back and 
forth, taking in the prospect of water and of vague is- 



A DAYBREAK RAMBLE 129 

lands breaking the silver of the lagoons, like those de- 
signs wrought in apparent relief on old Venetian mirrors. 
I walked there freely, for though there were already- 
many gondoliers at the station, not one took me for a 
foreigner or offered me a boat. At that hour, I was in 
myself so improbable that, if they saw me at all, I must 
have appeared to them as a dream. My sense of secur- 
ity was sweet, but it was false ; for on going into the 
church of St. Mark, the keener eye of the sacristan de- 
tected me. He instantly offered to show me the Zeno 
Chapel ; but I declined, preferring the church, where I 
found the space before the high altar filled with market- 
people come to hear the early mass. As I passed out of 
the church, I witnessed the partial awaking of a fellow 
Venetian who had spent the night in a sitting posture, 
between the columns of the main entrance. He looked 
puffy, scornful, and uncomfortable, and at the moment 
of falling back to slumber tried to smoke an unlighted 
cigarette, which he held between his lips. I found 
none of the shops open as I passed through the Mer- 
ceria, and but for myself, and here and there a laborer 
going to work, the busy thoroughfare seemed deserted. 
In the mere wantonness of power and the security of 
solitude, I indulged myself in snapping several door- 
latches, which gave me a pleasure as keen as that of 
boyhood from passing a stick along the pickets of a 
fence. I was in nowise abashed to be discovered in this 
amusement by an old peasant-woman, bearing at each 
end of a yoke the usual basket with bottles of milk 
packed in straw. 



I30 VENETIAN LIFE 

Entering Campo San Bartolomeo, I found trade 
already astir in that noisy place ; the voice of cheap 
bargains, which by noonday swells into an intolerable 
uproar, was beginning to be heard. Having lived in 
Campo San Bartolomeo, I recognized several familiar 
faces there, and particularly noted among them that of 
a certain fruit-vender, who frequently swindled me in my 
small dealings with him. He now sat before his stand, 
and for a man of a fat and greasy presence looked very 
fresh and brisk, and as if he had passed a good night. 

Ill 

On the other side of the Rialto Bridge, the market was 
preparing for the purchasers. Butchers were arranging 
their shops ; fruit-stands, and stands for the sale of crock- 
ery, and — as I must say for want of a better word, if 
there is any — notions, were in a state of tasteful readi- 
ness. The person on the steps of the bridge, who had ex- 
posed his stock of cheap clothing and coarse felt hats on 
the parapet, had so far completed his preparations as to 
have leisure to be talking himself hot and hoarse with 
the neighboring barber. He was in a perfectly good 
humor, and was merely giving a dramatic flavor to 
some question of six soldi. 

At the landings of the market-place, squadrons of 
boats loaded with vegetables were arriving and unload- 
ing. Peasants were building cabbages into pyramids ; 
collective squashes and cucumbers were taking a pictur- 
esque shape ; wreaths of garlic and garlands of onions 



f;<i^':%t^4;> . :-~ ^ '*^i 




«;a 



^rr)h;'^lmi'-^M 



A DAYBREAK RAMBLE 131 

graced the scene. All the people were clamoring at the 
tops of their voices ; and in the midst of the tumult and 
confusion, resting on heaps of cabbage-leaves and gar- 
bage, men lay on their bellies sweetly sleeping. Num- 
bers of eating-houses were sending forth a savory smell, 
and everywhere were breakfasters with bowls of sguas- 
setto. In one of the shops, somewhat prouder than the 
rest, a heated brunette was turning sections of eel on a 
gridiron, and hurriedly coquetting with the purchasers. 
Singularly calm amid all this bustle was the coun- 
tenance of the statue called the Gobbo, as I looked at 
it in the centre of the market-place. The Gobbo (who 
is not a hunchback, either) was patiently supporting his 
burden, and looking with a quiet, thoughtful frown 
upon the ground, as if pondering some dream of change 
that had come to him since the statutes of the haughty 
Republic were read aloud to the people from the stone 
tribune on his shoulders. 

Indeed, it was a morning for thoughtful meditation ; 
and as I sat at the feet of the four granite kings shortly 
after, waiting for the gate of the Ducal Palace to be 
opened, that I might see the girls drawing the water, 
I studied the group of the Judgment of Solomon, on the 
corner of the palace, and arrived at an entirely new in- 
terpretation of that Bible story, which I have now quite 
forgotten. 

The gate remained closed too long for my patience, 
and I turned away from a scene momently losing its 
interest. The brilliant litde shops opened like holly- 



132 VENETIAN LIFE 

hocks as I went home ; the swelling tide of life filled 
the streets, and brought Venice back to my day-time 
remembrance, robbing her of that keen, delightful 
charm with which she had greeted my early morning 
sense. 



X. THE MOUSE 

FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE MOUSE — THE APPEAL OF 
HIS WRETCHEDNESS — YIELDING TO TEMPTATION — 
PENALTY OF A GOOD ACTION. 

WISHING to tell the story of our Mouse, be- 
cause I think it illustrates some amusing 
traits of character in a certain class of Ital- 
ians, I explain at once that he was not a mouse, but a 
man, so called from his wretched, trembling littie man- 
ner, his fugitive expression and peaked visage. 

I 

He first appeared to us on the driver^s seat of that car- 
riage in which we posted so splendidly one spring-time 
from Padua to Ponte Lagoscuro. But though he mounted 
to his place just outside the city gate, we did not regard 
him much, nor, indeed, observe what a mouse he was, 
until the driver stopped to water his horses near Bat- 
taglia, and the Mouse got down to stretch his forlorn 
little legs. Then I got down, too, and bade him good- 
day, and told him it was a very hot day, — for he was 
a mouse apparently so plunged in wretchedness that I 
doubted if he knew what kind of day it was. 

When I had spoken, he began to praise (in the wary 
manner of the Venetians when they find themselves in 
the company of a foreigner who does not look like an 
Englishman) the Castle of the Obizzi near by, which is 



134 VENETIAN LIFE 

now the country-seat of the ex-Duke of Modena ; and 
he presently said something to imply that he thought 
me a German. 

" But I am not a German,'* said I. 

*' So many excuses/' said the Mouse sadly, but with 
evident relief ; and then began to talk more freely, and 
of the evil times. 

" Are you going all the way with us to Florence ? " 
I asked. 

" No, signor, to Bologna ; from there to Ancona." 

" Have you ever been in Venice ? We are just com- 
ing from there." 

" Oh, yes." 

" It is a beautiful place. Do you like it ? " 

" Sufficiently. But one does not enjoy himself very 
well there." 

" But I thought Venice interesting," 

"Sufficiently, signor. J/^ ./" the Mouse said, shrug- 
ging his shoulders, and putting on the air of being luxu- 
riously fastidious in his choice of cities, "the water is so 
bad in Venice." 

The Mouse is dressed in a heavy winter overcoat, and 
has no garment to form a compromise with his shirt- 
sleeves, if he should wish to render the weather more 
endurable by throwing off the surtout. In spite of his 
momentary assumption of consequence, I suspect that 
his coat is in the Monte di Piet^. It comes out di- 
rectly that he is a ship-carpenter who has worked in the 
Arsenal of Venice, and at the shipyards m Trieste. 

But there is no work any more. He went to Trieste 



THE MOUSE 135 

lately to get a job on the three frigates which the Sul- 
tan had ordered to be built there. Ma ! After all, the 
frigates are to be built in Marseilles instead. There is 
nothing. And everything is so dear. In Venetia you 
spend much and gain little. Perhaps there is work at 
Ancona. 

By this time the horses are watered ; the Mouse re- 
gains his seat, and we almost forget him, till he jumps 
from his place, just before we reach the hotel in Rovigo, 
and disappears — down the first hole in the side of a 
house, perhaps. He might have done much worse, and 
spent the night at the hotel, as we did. 

11 

The next morning at four o'clock, when we start, he is 
on the box again, nibbling bread and cheese, and glanc- 
ing furtively back at us to say good-morning. He has 
little twinkling black eyes, just like a mouse, and a 
sharp mustache, and sharp tuft on his chin — as like 
Victor Emmanuel's as a mouse's tuft can be. 

The cold morning air seems to shrivel him, and he 
crouches into a little gelid ball on the seat beside the 
driver, while we wind along the Po on the smooth gray 
road ; while the twilight lifts slowly from the distances 
of field and vineyard ; while the black boats of the Po, 
with their gaunt white sails, show spectrally through 
the mists ; while the trees and the bushes break into 
innumerable voice, and the birds are glad of another 
day in Italy ; while the peasant drives his mellow-eyed, 
dun oxen afield ; while his wife comes in her scarlet 



136 VENETIAN LIFE 

bodice to the door, and the children's faces peer out 
from behind her skirts ; while the air freshens, the east 
flushes, and the great miracle is wrought anew. 

Once again, before we reach the ferry of the Po, the 
Mouse leaps down and disappears as mysteriously as 
at Rovigo. We see him no more till we meet in the 
station on the other side of the river, where we hear 
him bargaining long and earnestly with the ticket-seller 
for a third-class passage to Bologna. He fails to get it, 
I think, at less than the usual rate, for he retires from 
the contest more shrunken and forlorn than before, and 
walks up and down the station, startled at a word, 
trembling at any sudden noise. 

For curiosity, I ask how much he paid for crossing 
the river, mentioning the fabulous sum it had cost us. 

It appears that he paid sixteen soldi only. "What 
could they do when a man was in misery ? I had no- 
thing else." 

Even while thus betraying his poverty the Mouse did 
not beg, and we began to respect his poverty. In a 
little while we pitied it, witnessing the manner in which 
he sat down on the edge of a chair, with a smile of meek 
desperation. 

It is a more serious case when an artisan is out of 
work in the Old World than one can understand in the 
New. There the struggle for bread is so fierce and the 
competition so great ; and, then, a man bred to one 
trade cannot turn his hand to another, as in America. 
Even the rudest and least skilled labor has more people 
to perform it than are wanted. The Italians are very 



THE MOUSE 137 

good to the poor, but the tradesman out of work must 
become a beggar before charity can help him. 

Ill 
We, who are poor enough to be wise, consult foolishly- 
together concerning the Mouse. It blesses him that 
gives and him that takes, — this business of charity. 
And then, there is something irresistibly relishing and 
splendid in the consciousness of being the instrument 
of a special providence ! Have I all my life admired 
those beneficent characters in novels and comedies who 
rescue innocence, succor distress, and go about pressing 
gold into the palm of poverty, and telling it to take it 
and be happy; and now shall I reject an occasion, made 
to my hand, for emulating them in real life ? 

" I think I will give the Mouse five francs," I say. 

" Yes, certainly." 

"But I will be prudent," I continue. "I will not^/z^^ 
him this money. I will tell him it is a loan which he 
may pay me back again whenever he can. In this way I 
shall relieve him now, and furnish him an incentive to 
economy." 

I call to the Mouse, and he runs tremulously toward 
me. 

" Have you friends in Ancona? " 

" No, signer." 

" How much money have you left ? " 

He shows me three soldL " Enough for a coffee." 

"And then?" 

" God knows." 



138 VENETIAN LIFE 

So I give him the five_ francs, and explain my little 
scheme of making it a loan, and not a gift ; and then I 
give him my address. 

He does not appear to understand the scheme of the 
loan ; but he takes the money, and is quite stunned by 
his good fortune. He thanks me absently, and goes and 
shows the piece to the guards with a smile that illu- 
mines and transfigures his whole person. At Bologna, 
he has come to his senses ; he loads me with blessings, 
he is ready to weep ; he reverences me, he wishes me a 
good voyage, endless prosperity, and innumerable days ; 
and takes the train for Ancona. 

" Ah, ah ! " I congratulate myself. " Is it not a fine 
thing to be the instrument of a special providence ? " 

It is pleasant to think of the Mouse during all that jour- 
ney, and if we are ever so tired, it rests us to say, " I wonder 
where the Mouse is by this time ?" When we get home, 
and coldly count up our expenses, we rejoice in the five 
francs lent to the Mouse. " And I know he will pay it back 
if ever he can," I say. " That was a Mouse of integrity." 

IV 

Two weeks later appears a comely young woman, with 
a young child, — a child strong on its legs, a child which 
tries to open everything in the room, which wants to 
pull the cloth off the table, to throw itself out of the open 
window, — -a child of which I have never seen the peer 
for restlessness and curiosity. The young woman has 
been directed to call on me as a person likely to pay her 
way to Ferrara. 



THE MOUSE 139 

" But who sent you ? But, in fine, why should I pay 
your way to Ferrara ? I have never seen you before." 

" My husband, whom you benefited on his way to 
Ancona, sent me. Here is his letter and the card you 
gave him." 

I call out to my fellow-victim, "My dear, here is 
news of the Mouse ! " 

"Don't tell me he's sent you that money already!" 

" Not at all. He has sent me his wife and child, that 
I may forward them to him at Ferrara, out of my good- 
ness, and the boundless prosperity which has followed 
his good wishes, — I, who am a great signor in his eyes, 
and an insatiable giver of five-franc pieces, — the instru- 
ment of a perpetual special providence. The Mouse has 
found work at Ferrara, and his wife comes here from 
Trieste. As for the rest, I am to send her to him, as I 
said." 

" You are deceived," I say solemnly to the Mouse's 
wife. " I am not a rich man. I lent your husband five 
francs because he had nothing. I am sorry : but I can- 
not spare twenty florins to send you to Ferrara. If one 
will help you?" 

"Thanks the same," said the young woman, who 
was well dressed enough ; and blessed me, and gath- 
ered up her child, and went her way. 

But her blessing did not lighten my heart, depressed 
and troubled by so strange an end to my little scheme 
of a beneficent loan. After all, perhaps the Mouse 
may have been as keenly disappointed as myself. With 
the ineradicable belief of the Italians, that persons who 



I40 VENETIAN LIFE 

speak English are wealthy by nature, and tutti originally 
it was not such an absurd conception of the case to 
suppose that if I had lent him five francs once, I should 
like to do it continually. Perhaps he may yet pay back 
the loan with usury. But I doubt it. In the mean time, 
I am far from blaming the Mouse. I merely feel that there 
is a misunderstanding, which I can pardon if he can. 



XL CHURCHES AND PICTURES 

DIFFICULTIES OF THE HUMBLE-MINDED OBSERVER — 
CONTRARIETIES OF RUSKIN — IGNORANT PLEASURE 
IN THE BEAUTY OF ST. MARK'S — VOTIVE OFFERINGS 
AND CHURCHES : THE SALUTE, SAN GIOVANNI E PAOLO 
— CLOISTERS OF SAN STEFANO — CHURCH CATS AND 
QUAINT EFFECTS. 

IT is the sad fortune of him who desires to arrive at 
full perception of the true and beautiful in art, to 
find that critics have no agreement except upon a 
few loose general principles ; and that among the artists, 
to whom he turns in his despair, no two think alike con- 
cerning the same master, while his own little learning 
has made him distrust his natural likings and mislikings. 
Ruskin is undoubtedly the best guide you can have in 
your study of the Venetian painters ; and after reading 
him, and suffering confusion and ignominy from his 
theories and egotisms, the exercises by which you are 
chastised into admitting that he has taught you any- 
thing cannot fail to end in a humility very favorable to 
your future as a Christian. But even in this subdued 
state you must distrust the methods by which he pre- 
tends to relate the aesthetic truths you perceive to cer- 
tain civil and religious conditions : you scarcely under- 
stand how Tintoretto, who genteelly disdains (on one 
page) to paint well any person baser than a saint or 
senator, and with whom '' exactly in proportion to the 



142 VENETIAN LIFE 

dignity of the character is the beauty of the paint- 
ing," comes (on the next page) to paint a very " weak, 
mean, and painful " figure of Christ ; and knowing a 
little the loose lives of the great Venetian painters, you 
must reject, with several other humorous postulates, the 
idea that good colorists are better men than bad color- 
ists. Without any guide, I think, these painters may be 
studied and understood, up to a certain point, by one 
who lives in the atmosphere of their art at Venice, and 
who, insensibly breathing its influence, acquires a feel- 
ing for it which all the critics in the world could not 
impart where the works themselves are not to be seen. 
I am sure that no one strange to the profession of artist 
ever received a just notion of any picture by reading 
the most accurate and faithful description of it : stated 
dimensions fail to convey ideas of size ; adjectives are 
not adequate to the ideas of movement ; and the names 
of the colors, however artfully and vividly introduced 
and repeated, cannot tell the reader of a painter's color- 
ing. I should be glad to hear what Titian's " Assump- 
tion" is like from some one who knew it by descriptions. 
Can any one who has seen it tell its likeness, or forget 
it ? Can any cunning critic describe intelligibly the dif- 
ference between the styles of Titian, of Tintoretto, and 
of Paolo Veronese, — that difference which no one with 
the slightest feeling for art can fail to discern after look- 
ing thrice at their works ? It results from all this that 
I must believe special criticisms on art to have their 
small use only in the presence of the works they discuss. 
This is my sincere belief, and I could not, in any hon- 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 143 

esty, lumber my pages with descriptions or speculations 
which would be idle to most readers, even if I were a far 
wiser judge of art than I affect to be. As it is, doubting 
if I am gifted in that way at all, I think I may better 
devote myself to discussion of such things in Venice as 
can be understood by comparison with things elsewhere, 
and so rest happy in the thought that I have thrown no 
additional darkness on any of the pictures half obscured 
now by the religious dimness of the Venetian churches. 



Doubt akin to that expressed has already made me 
hesitate to spend the reader's patience upon many 
well-known wonders of Venice ; and, looking back over 
the preceding chapters, I find that some of the princi- 
pal edifices of the city have scarcely got into my book 
even by name. It is possible that the reader, after all, 
loses nothing by this ; but I should regret it, if it seemed 
ingratitude to that expression of the beautiful which be- 
guiled many dull hours for me, and kept me company 
in many lonesome ones. For kindnesses of this sort, 
indeed, I am under obligations to edifices in every 
part of the city ; and there is hardly a bit of sculptured 
stone in the Ducal Palace to which I do not owe some 
pleasant thought or harmless fancy. Yet I am shy of 
endeavoring, in my gratitude, to transmute the substance 
of the Ducal Palace into some substance that shall be 
sensible to the eyes that look on this print ; and I for- 
give myself the reluctance the more readily when I re- 
member how, just after reading Mr. Ruskin's descrip- 



144 VENETIAN LIFE 

tion of St. Mark's Church, I, who had seen it every 
day for three years, began to have dreadful doubts of 
its existence. 

To be sure, this was only for a moment, and I do not 
think all the descriptive talent in the world could make 
me again doubt St. Mark's, which I remember with no 
less love than veneration. This church indeed has a 
beauty which touches and wins the heart, while it appeals 
profoundly to the religious sentiment. It is as if there 
were a sheltering friendliness in its low-hovering domes 
and arches ; as if here, where the meek soul feels wel- 
come and protection, the spirit oppressed with sin might 
creep nearest to forgiveness, in the temple's cavernous 
recesses, faintly starred with mosaic, and twilighted by 
twinkling altar-lamps. 

Though the church is enriched with incalculable value 
of stone and sculpture, I cannot remember at any time 
to have been struck by its mere opulence. There is 
such unity and fitness in the solemn splendor, that 
wonder is scarcely appealed to. Even the priceless and 
rarely seen treasures of the church — such as the 
famous golden altar-piece, whose costly blaze of gems 
and gold was lighted in Constantinople six hundred 
years ago — failed to impress me with their pecuniary 
worth, though I 

" Value the giddy pleasure of the eyes," 

and like to marvel at precious things. The jewels of 
other churches are conspicuous and silly heaps of value ; 
but St. Mark's, where every line of space shows delicate 
labor in rich material, subdues the jewels to their place 



i?^i?%':<-v-r5^f.~ -■'■::: 







S^-:mi^m 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 145 

of subordinate adornment. So, too, the magnificence of 
the Romish service seems less ostentatious there. In 
other churches the ceremonies may sometimes impress 
you with their grandeur, and even spirituality, but they 
all need the effect of twilight upon them. You want a 
foreground of kneeling figures, and faces half visible 
through heavy bars of shadow ; little lamps must trem- 
ble before the shrines ; and in the background must 
rise the high altar, ablaze with candles from vault to 
pavement, while a hidden choir pours music from be- 
hind, and the organ shakes the heart with its heavy 
tones. But with the daylight on its splendors even the 
grand function of the Te Deum fails to awe, and wearies 
by its length, except in St. Mark's alone, which is given 
grace to spiritualize what elsewhere would be mere thea- 
tric pomp.' The basilica, however, is not in everything 
the edifice best adapted to the Romish worship ; for the 
incense, which is a main element of the function, is gath- 
ered and held there in choking clouds under the low 
wagon-roofs of the cross-naves. Yet I do not know if I 
would banish incense from the formula of worship even 
in St. Mark's. There is certainly a poetic if not a reli- 
gious grace in the swinging censer and its curling fumes ; 

* The cardinal-patriarch officiates in the Basilica San Marco with some 
ceremonies which I believe are peculiar to the patriarchate of Venice, and 
which consist of an unusual number of robings and disrobings, and putting on 
and off of shoes. All this is performed with great gravity, and has, I suppose, 
some peculiar spiritual significance. The shoes are brought by a priest to 
the foot of the patriarchal throne, where a canon removes the profane, out- 
of-door gear, and places the sacred shoes on the patriarch's feet. A like 
ceremony replaces the patriarch's every-day gaiters, and the pious rite ends. 



146 VENETIAN LIFE 

and I think the perfume, as it steals mitigated to your 
nostrils, out of the open church door, is the most reverend 
smell in the world. 

The music in Venetian churches is not commonly 
very good ; the best is to be heard at St. Mark's, though 
the director of the choir always contrives to make such 
a slapping with his baton as nearly to spoil your enjoy- 
ment. The great musical event of the year is the per- 
formance (immediately after the Festa del Redentore) of 
the Soldini Masses. These are offered for the repose of 
one Giuseppe Soldini of Verona, who, dying possessed 
of about a million francs, bequeathed a part (some six 
thousand francs) annually to the church of St. Mark, on 
conditions named in his will. The terms are, that during 
three successive days, every year, there shall be said 
for the peace of his soul a certain number of masses, — 
all to be done in the richest and costliest manner. In 
case of delinquency, the bequest passes to the Philhar- 
monic Society of Milan ; but the priesthood of the basil- 
ica so strictly regard the wishes of the deceased that they 
never say less than four masses over and above the pre- 
scribed number. After hearing these masses, curiosity 
led me to visit the Casa di Ricovero, in order to look 
at Soldini' s will, and there I had the pleasure of re- 
cognizing the constantly recurring fact that beneficent 
humanity is of all countries and religions. The Casa 
di Ricovero is an immense edifice dedicated to the shel- 
ter and support of the decrepit and helpless of either 
sex, who are collected in it to the number of five hun- 
dred. The more modern quarter was erected from a 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 147 

bequest by Soldini ; and eternal provision is also made 
by his will for ninety of the inmates. The Secretary of 
the Casa went through all the wards and infirmaries 
with me, and everywhere I saw cleanliness and comfort 
(and such content as is possible to sickness and old age) 
without surprise ; for I had before seen the Civil Hos- 
pital of Venice, and knew something of the perfection 
of Venetian charities. 

At last we came to the wardrobe, where the clothes 
of the pensioners are made and kept. Here we were 
attended by a little, slender, pallid young nun, who ex- 
hibited the dresses with a simple pride altogether pa- 
thetic. She was a woman still, poor thing, though a nun, 
and she could not help loving new clothes. They called 
her Madre, who would never be it except in name and 
motherly tenderness. When we had seen all, she stood 
a moment before us, and as one of the coarse woolen 
lappets of her cape had hidden it, she drew out a heavy 
crucifix of gold, and placed it in sight, with a heavenly 
little ostentation, over her heart. An angel could have 
done it without harm, but she blushed repentance, and 
glided away with downcast eyes. 

II 

In St. Mark's, where the sublimity of the primitive 
faith seems to lay a transfiguring spell upon the present, 
there are none of these shows of mistaken piety which 
meet you elsewhere. For some notion of these you 
may go into the Church of the Carmelites, for instance, 
where there is a Madonna with the Child, elevated 



148 VENETIAN LIFE 

breast-high to the worshipers, and crowned with tinsel 
and garlanded with paper flowers ; she has a blue rib- 
bon about her tightly corseted waist; and she wears 
an immense spreading hoop. On her painted face 
of wood, with its staring eyes shadowed by a wig, is 
figured a set smile; and people come constantly and 
kiss the cross that hangs by a chain from her girdle, and 
utter their prayers to her ; while the column near which 
she sits is hung over with pictures celebrating the mira- 
cles she has performed. 

These votive pictures, indeed, are to be seen on most 
altars of the Virgin; but that Virgin who, in all her 
portraits, is dressed in a churn-shaped gown, and who 
holds a Child similarly attired, is the Madonna most 
efficacious in cases of dreadful accident and hopeless 
sickness, if we may trust the pictures which represent 
her interference. You see a carriage overturned and 
dragged along the ground by frantic horses, and the 
fashionably dressed lady and gentleman in the carriage 
about to be dashed into millions of pieces, when the 
havoc is instantly arrested by this Madonna, who breaks 
the clouds, leaving them with jagged and shattered 
edges, like broken panes of glass, and visibly holds 
back the fashionable lady and gentleman from destruc- 
tion. It is the fashionable lady and gentleman who 
have thus recorded their obligation ; and it is the mother, 
doubtless, of the little boy miraculously preserved from 
death in his fall from the second-floor balcony, who has 
gratefully caused the miracle to be painted and hung 
at the Madonna's shrine. Now and then you also find 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 149 

ofTerings of com and fruits before her altar, in acknow- 
ledgment of good crops which the Madonna has made 
to grow ; and again you find rows of silver hearts, 
typical of the sinful hearts which her intercession has 
caused to be purged. The greatest number of these, at 
any one shrine, is to be seen in the church of San Nicolo 
dei Tolentini, where I should think there were three 
hundred. 

Whatever may be the popularity of the Madonna 
della Salute in pestilent times, I do not take it to be 
very great when the health of the city is good, if I may 
judge from the sparseness of the worshipers in the 
church of her name. It is true that on the annual holi- 
day commemorative of her interposition to save Venice 
from, the plague, there is an immense concourse of 
people there ; but at other times I found the masses and 
vespers slenderly attended, and I did not observe a 
great number of votive offerings in the temple, though 
the great silver lamp placed there by the city, in mem- 
ory of the Madonna's goodness during the visitation of 
the cholera in 1849, may be counted, perhaps, as repre- 
sentative of much collective gratitude. It is a cold, 
superb church, lording it over the noblest breadth of 
the Grand Canal ; with its twin bell-towers and single 
massive dome, its majestic breadth of steps rising from 
the water's edge, and the"many-statued sculpture of its 
fagade. Strangers go there to see the splendor of its 
high altar (where the melodramatic Madonna, as the 
centre of a marble group, responds to the prayer of the 
operatic Venice, and drives away the theatrical Pest), 



I50 VENETIAN LIFE 

and the excellent Titians and the grand Tintoretto in 
the sacristy. 

The Salute is one of the great show-churches, like that 
of San Giovanni e Paolo, which the common poverty 
of imagination has decided to call the Venetian West- 
minster Abbey, because it contains many famous tombs 
and monuments. But there is only one Westminster 
Abbey ; and I am so far a believer in the perfectibility 
of our species as to suppose that vergers are nowhere 
possible but in England. There would be nothing to 
say, after Mr. Ruskin, in praise or blame of the great 
monuments in San Giovanni e Paolo, even if I cared to 
discuss them ; I only wonder that, in speaking of the 
bad art which produced the tomb of the Venieri, he 
failed to mention the successful approach to its de- 
praved feeling, made by the single figure sitting on the 
base of a slender shaft at the side of the first altar, on 
the right of the main entrance. I suppose this figure 
typifies Grief, but it really represents a drunken woman, 
whose drapery has fallen, as if in some vile debauch, to 
her waist, and who broods, with a horrible, heavy stupor 
and chopfallen vacancy, on something which she sup- 
ports with her left hand upon her knee. It is a circle of 
marble, and if you have the daring to peer under the 
arm of the debauchee, and look at it as she does, you 
find that it contains the bass-relief of a skull in bronze. 

I have looked again and again at nearly every 
painting of note in Venice, having a foolish shame to 
miss a single one, and having also a better wish to 
learn something of the beautiful from them ; but at last 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 151 

I must say, that, while I wondered at the greatness of 
some, and tried to wonder at the greatness of others, 
the only paintings which gave me genuine and hearty 
pleasure were those of Bellini, Carpaccio, and a few 
others of that school and time. 

Ill 

Every day we used to pass through the court of the 
old Augustinian convent adjourning the church of San 
Stefano. It is a long time since the monks were driven 
out of their snug hold ; and the convent is now the 
headquarters of the Austrian engineer corps, and the 
colonnade surrounding the court has become a public 
thoroughfare. On one wall of this court are the remains 
— very shadowy remains — of frescoes painted by Por- 
denone at the period of his fiercest rivalry with Titian ; 
and it is said that Pordenone, while he wrought upon 
the scenes of scriptural story here represented, wore his 
sword and buckler, in readiness to repel an attack which 
he feared from his competitor. The story is vague, and 
I hunted it down in divers authoriti^ only to find it 
grow more and more intangible and uncertain. But it 
gave a singular relish to our daily walk through the old 
cloister, and I added, for my own pleasure (and chiefly 
out of my own fancy, I am afraid, for I can nowhere 
localize the fable on which I built), that the rivalry 
between the painters was partly a love-jealousy, and 
that the disputed object of their passion was that fair 
Violante, daughter of the elder Palma, who is to be seen 
in so many pictures painted by her father, and by her 



152 VENETIAN LIFE 

lover, Titian. No doubt there are readers who will care 
less for this idleness of mine than for the fact that the 
hard-headed German monk, Martin Luther, once said 
mass in the adjoining church of San Stefano, and lodged 
in the convent, on his way to Rome. The unhappy 
Francesco Carrara, the last Lord of Padua, is buried 
in this church ; but Venetians are chiefly interested 
there now by the homilies of those fervent preacher- 
monks, who deliver powerful sermons during Lent. 
The monks are gifted men, with earnest and graceful 
eloquence, and they attract immense audiences, like 
popular ministers among ourselves. It is a fashion to 
hear them, and although the atmosphere of the churches 
in the season of Lent is raw, damp, and uncomfortable, 
the Venetians then throng the churches where they 
preach. After Lent the sermons and church-going cease, 
and the sanctuaries are once more abandoned to the 
priests, droning from the altars to the scattered kneelers 
on the floor, — the foul old women and the young girls 
of the poor, the old-fashioned old gentlemen and devout 
ladies of the bet^r class, and that singular race of pov- 
erty-stricken old men proper to Italian churches, who, 
having dabbled themselves with holy water, wander for- 
lornly and aimlessly about, and seem to consort with 
the foreigners looking at the objects of interest. Loung- 
ing young fellows of low degree appear with their caps 
in their hands, long enough to tap themselves upon the 
breast and nod recognition to the high altar ; and loung- 
ing young fellows of high degree step in to glance at 
the faces of the pretty girls, and then vanish. The dron- 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 153 

ing ends presently, and the devotees disappear, the last 
to go being that thin old woman, kneeling before a 
shrine, with a grease-gray shawl falling from her head to 
the ground. The sacristan, in his perennial enthusiasm 
about the great picture of the church, almost treads upon 
her as he brings the strangers to see it, and she gets 
meekly up and begs of them in a bated whimper. The 
sacristan gradually expels her with the visitors, and at 
one o'clock locks the door and goes home. 

IV 

By chance I have got a fine efTect in churches at the 
five o'clock mass in the morning, when the worship- 
ers are nearly all peasants who have come to market, 
and who are pretty sure, each one, to have a bundle or 
basket. At this hour the sacristan is heavy with sleep ; 
he dodges uncertainly at the tapers as he lights and 
quenches them ; and his manner to the congregation, 
as he passes through it to the altar, is altogether rasped 
aiid ner\'ous. I think it is best to be one's self a little 
sleepy, — when the barefooted friar at the altar (if it is 
in the church of the Scalzi, say) has a habit of gettif!g 
several centuries back from you, and saying mass to 
the patrician ghosts from the tombs under your feet ; 
and there is nothing at all impossible in the benign 
angels and cherubs in marble, floating and fatly tum- 
bling about on the broken arches of the altars. 

I have sometimes been puzzled in Venice to know 
why churches should keep cats, church-mice being pro- 
verbially so poor, and so litde capable of sustaining a 



154 VENETIAN LIFE 

cat in good condition ; yet I have repeatedly found 
sleek and portly cats in the churches, where they seem 
to be on terms of perfect understanding with the priests, 
and to have no quarrel even with the little boys who 
assist at mass. There is, for instance, a cat in the sac- 
risty of the Frari, which I have often seen in friendly 
association with the ecclesiastics there, when they came * 
into his room to robe or disrobe, or warm their hands, 
numb with supplication, at the great brazier in-the mid- 
dle of the floor. I do not think this cat has the slightest 
interest in the lovely Madonna of Bellini which hangs in 
the sacristy ; but I suspect him of dreadful knowledge 
concerning the tombs in the church. I have no doubt 
he has passed through the open door of Canova^s mon- 
ument, and that he sees some coherence and meaning 
in Titian's ; he has been all over the great mausoleum 
of the Doge Pesaro, and he knows whether the griffins 
descend from their perches at the midnight hour to bite 
the naked knees of the ragged black caryatides. This 
profound and awful animal I take to be a blood rela- 
tion of the cat in the church of San Giovanni e Paolo, 
v^o sleeps like a Christian during service, and loves 
a certain glorious bed on the top of a bench, where 
the sun strikes upon him through the great painted 
window, and dapples his tawny coat with lovely purples 
and crimsons. 

The church cats are apparently the friends of the 
sacristans, with whom their amity is maintained prob- 
ably by entire cession of the spoils of visitors. Of 
these, therefore, they seldom take any notice, merely 



CHURCHES AND PICTURES 155' 

opening a lazy eye now and then to wink at the sacris- 
tans as they drag the deluded strangers from altar to 
altar, with intense enjoyment of the absurdity, and a 
wicked satisfaction in the incredible stories rehearsed. 
I fancy, being Italian cats, they feel something like a 
national antipathy toward those troops of German tour- 
ists, who always seek the Sehenswiirdigkeiten in com- 
panies of ten or twenty, — the men wearing their beards, 
and the women their hoops and hats, to look as much 
like English people as possible ; while their valet mar- 
shals them forward with a stream of guttural infor- 
mation, unbroken by a single punctuation point. These 
wise cats know the real English by their ^* Murrays ; " 
and I think they make a shrewd guess at the nationality 
of us Americans by the speed with which we pass from 
one thing to another, and by our national ignorance 
of all languages but English. They must also hear us 
vaunt the superiority of our own land in unpleasant 
comparisons, and I do not think they believe us, or like 
us, for our boasting. I am sure they would say to us, if 
they could, " Quando Jinird, mai quella guerra ? Che 
sangue! che orrore!^^ (** When will this war ever be 
ended? What blood ! What horror I" I have often heard 
the question and the comment from many Italians who 
were not cats.) The French tourist they distinguish by 
his evident skepticism concerning his own wisdom in 
quitting Paris for the present purpose ; and the travel- 
ing Italian, by his attention to his badly dressed, hand- 
some wife, with whom he is now making his wedding 
trip. 



156 VENETIAN LIFE 

V 

I HAVE found churches undergoing repairs (as most 
of them always are in Venice) rather interesting. Under 
these circumstances, the sacristan is obliged to take you 
into all sorts of secret places and odd corners, to show 
you the objects of interest; and you may often get 
glimpses of pictures which, if they were not removed 
from their proper places, it would be impossible to see. 
The carpenters and masons work most deliberately, as 
if in a place so set against progress that speedy work- 
manship would be a kind of impiety. Besides the me- 
chanics, there are always idle priests standing about, 
and vagabond boys clambering over the scaffolding. In 
San Giovanni e Paolo I remember we one day saw a 
small boy appear through an opening in the roof, and 
descend by means of some hundred feet of dangling 
rope. The spectacle, which made us ache with fear, de- 
lighted his companions so much that their applause 
was scarcely subdued by the sacred character of the 
place. As soon as he reached the ground in safety, a 
gentle, good-natured-looking priest took him by the 
arm and cuffed his ears. 



XII. SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 

SOME ISLAND CHURCHES AND THEIR SCULPTURES — 
SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE — THE LIDO AND ITS MEMO- 
RIES, ITS FORTRESSES AND FIELDS AND VILLAGES — 
AN EXCURSION TO TORCELLO, BY WAY OF MURANO — 
INCIDENTS AND OBJECTS OF INTEREST AT TORCELLO, 
WITH THE WISE CONCLUSION OF THE FLOWER OF 
SERVING-WOMEN — CHIOGGIA AND ITS INGENUOUS 
INHABITANTS. 

NOTHING can be fairer to the eye than those 
** summer isles of Eden" lying all about Venice, 
far and near. The water forever trembles and 
changes, with every change of light, from one rainbow 
glory to another ; and even when the splendid tides re- 
cede, and go down with the sea, they leave a heritage of 
beauty to the empurpled mud of the shallows, strewn with 
green, disheveled seaweed. The lagoons have almost as 
wide a bound as your vision. On the east and west you 
can see their borders of seashore and mainland ; but 
looking north and south, there seems no end to the charm 
of their vast, smooth, all but melancholy expanses. Be- 
yond their southern limit rise the blue Euganean Hills, 
where Petrarch died ; on the north loom the Alps, white 
with snow. Dotting the stretches of lagoon in every direc- 
tion lie the islands — now piles of airy architecture that 
the water seems to float under and bear upon its breast, 

now 

*' Sunny spots of greenery," 



158 VENETIAN LIFE 

with the bell-towers of demolished cloisters spectrally 
showing above their trees ; for in the days of the Re- 
public nearly every one of the islands had its monas- 
tery and its church. At present the greater number 
have been fortified by the Austrians, whose sentinel 
paces the once peaceful shores, and challenges all pass- 
ers with his sharp " Halt ! Wer dal^^ and warns them 
not to approach too closely. Other islands have been 
devoted to different utilitarian purposes, and few are able 
to keep their distant promises of loveliness. One of the 
more faithful is the island of San Clemente, on which 
the old convent church is yet standing, empty and for- 
lorn within, but without all draped in glossy ivy. After 
I had learned to row in the gondolier fashion, I voyaged 
much in the lagoon with my boat, and often stopped at 
this church. It has a curious feature in the chapel of 
the Madonna di Loreto, which is built in the middle of the 
nave, faced with marble, roofed, and isolated from the 
walls of the main edifice on all sides. On the back of this 
there is a bass-relief in bronze, representing the Nativity, 
— a work much in the spirit of the bass-reliefs in San 
Giovanni e Paolo ; and one of the chapels has an ex- 
quisite little altar, with gleaming columns of porphyry. 
There has been no service in the church for many years ; 
and this altar had a strangely pathetic effect, won from 
the black four-cornered cap of a priest that lay before it, 
like an offering. I wondered who the priest was that 
wore it, and why he had left it there, as if he had fled 
away in haste. The gondolier who was with me took it 
up and reviled it as representative of birbanti matricolatiy 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 159 

who fed upon the poor, and in whose expulsion from 
that island he rejoiced. But he had little reason to do so, 
since the last use of the place was for the imprisonment 
of refractory ecclesiastics. Some of the tombs of the 
Morosini are in San Clemente, — villainous monuments, 
with bronze Deaths popping out of apertures, and 
holding marble scrolls inscribed with undying deeds. 
Nearly all the decorations of the poor old church are 
horrible, and there is one statue in it meant for an angel, 
with the most lascivious face ever put in marble. 

I 

The islands near Venice are small, except the Giu- 
decca (which is properly a part of the city), the Lido, 
and Murano. The Giudecca, from being anciently the 
bounds in which certain factious nobles were confined, 
was later laid out in pleasure gardens, and built up with 
summer palaces. The gardens still remain to some 
extent ; but they are now chiefly turned to practical 
account in raising vegetables and fruits for the Vene- 
tian market, and the palaces have been converted into 
warehouses and factories. This island produces a variety 
of beggar, the most tenacious in all Venice, and it has 
a convent of Capuchin friars, who are likewise beggars. 
To them belongs the church of the Redentore, with the 
Madonnas of Bellini in the sacristy. 

At the eastern extremity of the Giudecca lies the is- 
land of San Giorgio Maggiore, with Palladio's church 
of that name. There are some great Tintorettos in the 
church, and beautiful wood-carvings in the choir. The 



i6o VENETIAN LIFE 

island has a sad interest from the political prison into 
which part of the old convent has been perverted ; and 
the next island eastward is the scarcely sadder abode of 
the mad. Then comes the fair and happy seat of Arme- 
nian learning and piety, San Lazzaro, and then the Lido. 

The Lido is the seashore, and thither in more cheer- 
ful days the Venetians used to resort in great numbers 
on certain holidays, called the Mondays of the Lido, 
to enjoy the sea-breeze and the country scenery, and to 
lunch upon the flat tombs of the Hebrews, buried there 
in exile from the consecrated Christian ground. On a 
summer's day the sun glares down upon the sand and 
flat gravestones, and it seems the most desolate place 
where one's bones could be laid. The Protestants were 
once also interred on the Lido, but now they rest (apart 
from the Catholics, however) in the cemetery of San 
Michele. 

The island is long and narrow : it stretches between 
the lagoons and the sea, with a village at either end, 
and with bath-houses on the beach, which is everywhere 
faced with forts. There are some poor little trees there, 
and grass, — things which we were thrice a week grate- 
ful for, when we went thither to bathe. I do not know 
whether it will give the place further interest to say that 
it was among the tombs of the Hebrews that Cooper's 
ingenious Bravo had the incredible good luck to hide 
himself horn, the sdtrrioi the Republic ; or to relate that 
it was the habit of Lord Byron to gallop up and down 
the Lido in search of the conspicuous solitude of which 
he was fond. 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS i6i 

II 

One day of the first summer I spent in Venice (three 
years of Venetian life afterward removed it back into 
times of the remotest antiquity), a friend and I had the 
now incredible enterprise to walk from one end of the 
Lido to the other, from the port of San Nicolo (through 
which the Bucintoro passed when the Doges went to 
espouse the Adriatic) to the port of Malamocco, at the 
southern extremity. 

We began with that delicious bath which you may 
have in the Adriatic, where the light surf breaks with a 
pensive cadence on the sand, all strewn with brilliant 
shells. The Adriatic is the bluest water I have ever seen ; 
and it is a lazy delight to lie and watch the fishing sails 
of purple and yellow dotting its surface, and the greater 
ships dipping down its utmost rim. It was particularly 
good to do this after coming out of the water ; but our 
American blood could not brook much repose, and 
we got up presently, and started on our walk to the 
little village of Malamocco, some three miles away. 
The double-headed eagle keeps watch and ward from a 
continuous line of forts along the shore, and the white- 
coated sentinels never cease to pace the bastions, night 
or day. Their vision of the sea must not be interrupted 
by even so much as the form of a stray passer ; and as 
we went by the forts, we had to descend from the sea- 
wall, and walk under it, until we got beyond the sen- 
try's beat. The crimson poppies grow everywhere on 
this sandy little isle, and they fringe the edges of the 



i62 VENETIAN LIFE 

bastions with their bloom, as if the '* blood-red blossom 
of war " had there sprung from the seeds of battle sown 
in old forgotten fights. But otherwise the forts were not 
very engaging in appearance. A sentry-box of yellow 
and black, a sentry, a row of seaward frowning cannon — 
there was not much in all this to interest us ; and so we 
walked idly along, and looked either to the city rising 
from the lagoons on one hand, or to the ships going down 
the sea on the other. In the fields, along the road, were 
vines and Indian corn ; but instead of those effigies of 
humanity, doubly fearful from their wide unlikeness to 
anything human, which we contrive to scare away the 
birds, the devout peasant-folks had here displayed on 
poles the instruments of the Passion of the Lord, — the 
hammer, the cords, the nails, — which at once protected 
and blessed the fields. The fields were well cultivated, 
and the vines and garden vegetables looked flourish- 
ing ; but the corn was spindling, and had, I thought, 
a homesick look, as if it dreamed vainly of wide an- 
cestral bottom-lands, on the mighty streams that run 
through the heart of the Great West. The Italians call 
our corn gran turco ; but I knew that it was for the 
West that it yearned, and not for the East. 

No doubt there were once finer dwellings than the 
peasants' houses which are now the only habitations on 
the Lido ; and I suspect that a genteel villa must for- 
merly have stood near the farm-gate, which we found 
surmounted by broken statues of Venus and Diana. 
The poor goddesses were both headless, and some 
cruel fortune had struck off their hands, and they 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 163 

looked strangely forlorn in the swaggering attitudes 
of the absurd period of art to which they belonged : 
they extended their mutilated arms toward the sea for 
pity, but it regarded them not ; and we passed before 
them scoffing at their bad taste, for we were hungry, 
and it was yet some distance to Malamocco. 

This dirty little village was the capital of the Vene- 
tian islands before King Pepin and his Franks burned 
it, and the shifting sands of empire gathered solidly 
about the Rialto in Venice. It is a thousand years since 
that time, and Malamocco has long been given over to 
fishermen's families and the soldiers of the forts. There is 
a church at Malamocco, but it was closed, and we could 
not find the sacristan ; so we went to the little restau- 
rant, as the next best place, and demanded something to 
eat. What had the padrone? He answered pretty much 
to the same effect as the innkeeper in "Don Quixote," 
who told his guests that they could have anything 
that walked on the earth, or swam in the sea, or flew 
in the air. We would take, then, some fish, or a bit 
of veal, or some mutton chops. The padrone sweetly 
shrugged the shoulders of apology. There was nothing 
of all this, but what would we say to some liver or 
gizzards of chickens, fried upon the instant and ready 
the next breath? No, we did not want them; so we 
compromised on some ham fried in batter of eggs, 
and reeking with its own fatness. It was a very bad 
little lunch, and nothing redeemed it but the amiability 
of the smiling padrone and the bustling padrona, who 
served us as kings and princes. It was a clean hostelry, 



i64 VENETIAN LIFE 

though, and that was a merit in Malamocco, of which 
the chief modern virtue is that it cannot hold you long. 
No doubt it was more interesting in other times. In 
the days when the Venetians chose it for their capital, 
it was a walled town, and fortified with towers. It has 
been more than once inundated by the sea, and it 
might again be washed out with advantage. 

ni 
In the spring, two years after my visit to Malamocco, 
we people in Casa Falier made a long-intended ex- 
pedition to the island of Torcello, which is perhaps the 
most interesting of the islands of the lagoons. We had 
talked of it all winter, and had acquired enough pro- 
perty there to put up some light Spanish castles on the 
desolate site of the ancient city, that, so many years 
ago, sickened of the swamp air and died. A Count 
from Torcello is the title which Venetian persiflage gives 
to improbable noblemen ; and thus even the pride of 
the dead Republic of Torcello has passed into matter 
of scornful jest. 

When we leave the riva of Casa Falier, we pass down 
the Grand Canal, cross the Basin of St. Mark, and enter 
one of the narrow canals that intersect the Riva degli 
Schiavoni, whence we wind and deviate southwestward 
till we emerge near the church of San Giovanni e Paolo, 
on the Fondamenta Nuovi. On our way we notice that 
a tree, hanging over the water from a little garden, is 
in full leaf, and at Murano we see the tender bloom of 
peaches and the drifted blossom of cherry trees. 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 165 

As we go by the cemetery of San Michele, Piero the 
gondolier and Giovanna improve us with a little solemn 
pleasantry. 

"It is a small place," says Piero, " but there is room 
enough for all Venice in it." 

" It is true," assents Giovanna, " and here we poor 
folks become landholders at last." 

At Murano we stop a moment to look at the old 
Duomo, and to enjoy its quaint mosaics within, and the 
fine and graceful spirit of the apse without. It is very 
old, this architecture ; but the eternal youth of the beau- 
tiful belongs to it, and there is scarce a stone fallen 
from it that I would replace. 

The manufacture of glass at Murano, of which the 
origin is so remote, may be said to form the only branch 
of industry which still flourishes in the lagoons. Mura- 
nese beads are exported to all quarters in vast quanti- 
ties, and the process of making them is one of the things 
that strangers feel they must see when visiting Venice. 
The famous mirrors are no longer made, and the glass 
has deteriorated in quality, as well as in the beauty of 
the thousand curious forms it took. The test of the old 
glass, which is now imitated a great deal, is its extreme 
lightness. I suppose the charming notion that glass 
was once wrought at Murano of such fineness that it 
burst into fragments if poison were poured into it, must 
be fabulous. 

The city of Murano has dwindled from thirty to five 
thousand in population. It is intersected by a system of 
canals like Venice, and has a Grand Canal of its own, 



i66 VENETIAN LIFE 

of as stately breadth as that of the capital. The finer 
houses are built on this canal ; but the beautiful palaces, 
once occupied in villeggiatura by the noble Venetians, 
are now inhabited by herds of poor, or converted into 
glass-works. The famous Cardinal Bembo and other 
literati made the island their retreat, and beautified it 
with gardens and fountains. Casa Priuli in that day was, 
according to Venetian ideas, **a terrestrial Paradise," 
and a proper haunt of " nymphs and demi-gods.'^ But 
the wealth, the learning, and the elegance of former 
times, which planted "groves of Academe'^ atMurano, 
have passed away, and the fair pleasure-gardens are 
now weed-grown wastes, or turned into cabbage and 
potato patches. It is a poor, dreary little town, with an 
inexplicable charm in its decay. The city arms are still 
displayed upon the public buildings (for Murano was 
ruled, independently of Venice, by its own council) ; and 
the heraldic cock, with a snake in its beak, has yet a 
lusty and haughty air amid the ruin of the place. 

The way in which the spring made itself felt upon the 
lagoon was full of curious delight. It was not so early in 
the season that we should know the spring by the first 
raw warmth in the air, and there was as yet no assurance 
of her presence in the growth — later so luxuriant — of 
the coarse grasses of the shallows. But somehow the 
spring was there, giving us new life with every breath. 
There were fewer gulls than usual, and those we saw 
sailed far overhead, debating departure. There was 
deeper languor in the laziness of the soldiers of finance, 
as they lounged and slept upon their floating custom- 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 167 

houses in every channel of the lagoons ; and the hollow 
voices of the boatmen, yelling to each other as their 
wont is, had an uncommon tendency to diffuse them- 
selves in echo. Over all, the heavens had put on their 
summer blue, in promise of that delicious weather which 
in the lagoons lasts half the year, and which makes every 
other climate seem niggard of sunshine and azure skies. 
I know we have beautiful days at home, — days of which 
the sumptuous splendor used to take my memory with 
unspeakable longing and regret even in Italy, — but 
we do not have, week after week, month after month, 

that 

" Blue, unclouded weather," 

which, at Venice, contents all your senses, and makes 
you exult to be alive with the inarticulate gladness of 
children, or of the swallows that all day wheel and 
dart through the air, and shriek out a delight too in- 
tense and precipitate for song. 

IV 

The island of Torcello is some five miles away from 
Venice, in the northern lagoon. The city was founded 
far back in the troubled morning of Christian civiliza- 
tion, by refugees from barbarian invasion, and built with 
stones quarried from the ruins of old Altinum, over which 
Attila had passed desolating. During the first ages of 
its existence Torcello enjoyed the doubtful advantage 
of protection from the Greek emperors, but fell after- 
ward under the domination of Venice. In the thirteenth 
century the silt of the river that emptied into the lagoon 



1 68 VENETIAN LIFE 

there began to choke up the wholesome salt canals, and 
to poison the air with swampy malaria; and in the 
seventeenth century the city had so dwindled that the 
Venetian podestct removed his residence from the de- 
populated island to Burano, — though the bishopric es- 
tablished immediately after the settlement of the refugees 
at Torcello continued there till 1814, to the satisfaction, 
no doubt, of the frogs and mosquitoes that had long 
inherited the former citizens. 

I confess that I know little more of the history of 
Torcello than I found in my guide-book. There I read 
that the city had once stately civic and religious edi- 
fices, and that in the tenth century the Emperor Por- 
phyrogenitus called it " magnum emporium Torcellano- 
rum^ The much-restored cathedral of the seventh cen- 
tury, a little church, a building supposed to have been 
the public palace, and other edifices so ruinous and so 
old that their exact use in other days is not now known, 
are all that remain of the magnum emporium^ except 
some lines of mouldering wall that wander along the 
canals and through pastures and vineyards, in the last 
stages of dilapidation and decay. There is a lofty bell- 
tower, also, from which, no doubt, the Torcellani used 
to descry afar off the devouring hordes of the bar- 
barians on the mainland, and prepare for defense. As 
their city was never actually invaded, I am at a loss 
to account for the so-called Throne of Attila, which 
stands in the grass-grown piazza before the cathedral ; 
and I fear that it may really have been after all only the 
seat which the ancient Tribunes of Torcello occupied on 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 169 

public occasions. It is a stone arm-chair, of a rude state- 
liness ; and though I questioned its authenticity, I went 
and sat down in it a little while, to give myself the bene- 
fit of a doubt in case Attila had really pressed the same 
seat. 

As soon as our gondola touched the grassy shores at 
Torcello, Giovanna's children, Beppi and Nina, whom we 
had brought with us to give a first experience of trees 
and flowers and mother earth, leaped from the boat and 
took possession of the land and water. By a curious 
fatality the little girl, bred safely amid the hundred 
canals of Venice, signalized her absence from their 
perils by presently falling into the only canal in Tor- 
cello, whence she was taken dripping, to be confined at 
a farmhouse during the rest of our stay. The children 
were wild with pleasure, being absolutely new to the 
country, and ran over the island, plucking bouquets of 
weeds and flowers by armfuls. A rake, borne afield 
upon the shoulder of a peasant, fascinated the Venetian 
Beppi, and drew him away to study its strange and 
wonderful uses. 

The simple inhabitants of Torcello came forth with 
gifts, or rather bargains, of flowers, to meet their dis- 
coverers, and in a little while exhausted our soldi. They 
also attended us in full force when we sat down to lunch, 
— the old, the young men and maidens, and the little 
children, all alike sallow, tattered, and dirty. Under 
these circumstances, a sense of the idyllic and the patri- 
archal gave zest to our collation, and moved us to be- 
stow, in a splendid manner, fragments of the feast among 



I70 VENETIAN LIFE 

the poor Torcellani. The smaller among them even 
scrambled with the dog for the bones, until a little girl 
was bitten, when a terrific tumult arose, and the dog 
was driven home by the whole multitude. The children 
all had that gift of beauty which Nature seldom denies 
to the children of their race; but being, as I said, so 
dirty, their beauty shone forth chiefly from their large, 
soft eyes. They had a very graceful, bashful archness 
of manner, and they insinuated beggary so winningly 
that it would have been impossible for hungry people 
to deny them. As for us, having lunched, we gave them 
everything that remained, and went off to feast our 
enthusiasm for art and antiquity in the cathedral. 

I have not the least intention of describing it. I re- 
member best among its wonders the bearing of certain 
impenitents in one of the mosaics on the walls, whom the 
artist had meant to represent as suffering in the flames 
of torment. I think, however, I have never seen compla- 
cence equal to that of these sinners, unless it was in the 
countenances of the seven fat kine, which, as represented 
in the vestibule of St. Mark^s, wear an air of the sleepiest 
and laziest enjoyment, while the seven lean kine, having 
just come up from the river, devour steaks from their 
bleeding haunches. There are other mosaics in the Tor- 
cello cathedral, especially those in the apse and in one 
of the side chapels, which are in a beautiful spirit of art, 
and form the widest possible contrast to the eighteenth- 
century high altar, with its insane and ribald angels 
flying off at the sides, and poising themselves in the 
rope-dancing attitudes favored by statues of heavenly 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 171 

persons in the decline of art. The choir is peculiarly 
built, in the form of a half-circle, with seats rising one 
above another, as in an amphitheatre, and a flight 
of steps ascending to the bishop's seat above all, — 
after the manner of the earliest Christian churches. The 
parapet before the high altar is of almost transparent 
marble, delicately sculptured with peacocks and lions, as 
the Byzantines loved to carve them ; and the capitals of 
the columns dividing the naves are of wonderful rich- 
ness. Part of the marble pulpit has a curious bass-relief, 
said to be representative of the worship of Mercury; 
and indeed the Torcellani owe much of the beauty of 
their Duomo to unrequited antiquity. They came to be 
robbed in their turn : for the opulence of their churches 
was so great that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centu- 
ries the severest penalties had to be enacted against 
those who stole from them. No one will be surprised 
to learn that the clergy themselves participated in these 
spoliations ; but I believe no ecclesiastic was ever lashed 
in the piazza, or deprived of an eye or a hand, for his 
offense. 

An arcade runs along the fagade of the cathedral, 
and around the side and front of the adjoining church of 
Santa Fosca, which is likewise very old. But we found 
nothing in it but a dusty, cadaverous stench, and so we 
came away and ascended the campanile. From the top 
of this you have a view of the lagoon, in all its iridescent 
hues, and of the heaven-blue sea. Here, looking toward 
the mainland, I would have been glad to experience the 
feelings of the Torcellani of old, as they descried the 



172 VENETIAN LIFE 

smoking advance of Huns or Vandals. But the finer 
emotions are like gifted children, and are seldom equal 
to occasions. The old woman who had opened the door 
of the campanile was surprised into hospitality by the 
sum of money we gave her, and took us through her 
house (which was certainly very neat and clean) into 
her garden, where she explained the nature of many 
familiar trees and shrubs to us^poor Venetians. 

We went back home over the twilight lagoon, and 
Giovanna expressed the general feeling when she said : 
^^Torsello xe beo — no si pol negar; la campagna xe 
beUy ma benedetta la mia Venesia! " (Torcello is beau- 
tiful — it can't be denied ; the country is beautiful, 
but blessed be my Venice !) 

V 

The panorama of the southern lagoon is best seen in a 
voyage to Chioggia, or Ciozza, the quaint and historic 
little city that lies twenty miles away from Venice, at 
one of the ports of the harbor. The Giant Sea-wall, built 
there by the Republic in her decline, is a work which 
impresses you more deeply than any other monument of 
the past with a sense of her former industrial and com- 
mercial greatness. Strips of village border the narrow 
Littorale all the way to Chioggia, and on the right lie the 
islands of the lagoon. Chioggia itself is hardly more 
than a village, — a Venice in miniature, like Murano, 
with canals and boats and bridges. But here the char- 
acter of life is more amphibious than in brine-bound 
Venice ; and though there is no horse to be seen in the 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 173 

central streets of Chioggia, peasants' teams penetrate 
her borders by means of a long bridge from the main- 
land. 

Of course Chioggia has passed through the customary 
vicissitudes of Italian towns, and has been depopulated 
at divers times by pestilence, famine, and war. It suf- 
fered cruelly in the war with the Genoese in 1380, when it 
was taken by those enemies of St. Mark ; and its people 
were so wasted by the struggle that the Venetians, on 
regaining it, were obliged to invite immigration to re- 
populate its emptiness. I do not know how great com- 
fort the Chiozzotti of that unhappy day took in the fact 
that some of the earliest experiments with cannon were 
made in the contest that destroyed them, but I can hardly 
offer them less tribute than to mention it here. At pre- 
sent the place is peopled almost entirely by sailors and 
fishermen, whose wives are more famous for their beauty 
than their amiability. Goldoni's ** Baruffe Chiozzotte" is 
an amusing and vivid picture of the daily battles which 
the high-spirited ladies of the city fought in the drama- 
tist's time, and which are said to be of frequent occur- 
rence at this day. (Goldoni's family went from Venice 
to Chioggia when the dramatist was very young. The 
descriptions of his life there form some of the most in- 
teresting chapters of his Memoirs.) The Chiozzotte are 
the only women of this part of Italy who still preserve 
a semblance of national costume ; and this remnant 
of more picturesque times consists merely of a skirt of 
white, which, being open in front, is drawn from the 
waist over the head and gathered in the hand under 



174 VENETIAN LIFE 

the chin, giving to the flashing black eyes and swarthy 
features of the youthful wearer a look of very dangerous 
slyness. The dialect of the Chiozzotti is said to be that 
of the early Venetians, with an admixture of Greek, and 
it is more sweet and musical than the dialect now spoken 
in Venice. "Whether derived," says the author of the 
" Fiore di Venezia," " from those who first settled these 
shores, or resulting from other physical and moral causes, 
it is certain that the tone of the voice is here more varied 
and powerful : the mouth is thrown wide open in speak- 
ing ; a passion, a lament, mingles with laughter itself, 
and there is a continual ritornello of words previously 
spoken. But this speech is full of energy ; whoever would 
study brief and strong modes of expression should come 
here." 

Chioggia was once the residence of noble and distin- 
guished persons, among whom was the painter Rosalba 
Carrera, famed throughout Europe for her crayon min- 
iatures, and the place produced in the sixteenth century 
the great maestro Giuseppe Zarlino, "who passes," says 
Cantu, "for the restorer of modern music," and "whose 
*Orfeo' heralded the invention of the musical drama." 
This composer claimed for his birthplace the fame and 
honor of the institution of the order of the Capuchins, 
which he declared to have been founded by Fra Paolo 
(Giovanni Sambi) of Chioggia. There are no dwell- 
ings in the town which approach palatial grandeur, 
and nothing in the rococo churches to claim attention, 
unless it is the attributive Bellini in one of them. Yet 
if you have the courage to climb the bell-tower of the 



SOME ISLANDS OF THE LAGOONS 175 

cathedral, you get from its summit the loveUest imagin- 
able view of many-purpled lagoon and silver-flashing 
sea ; and if you are sufficiently acquainted with Italy 
and Italians to observe a curious fact, and care to study 
the subject, you may note the great difference between 
the inhabitants of Chioggia and those of Palestrina, 
— an island divided from Chioggia by a half mile of 
lagoon, and by quite different costume, type of face, and 
accent. 

Just between Chioggia and the sea lies the lazy town 
of Sottomarina, and I should say that the population of 
Sottomarina chiefly spent its time in lounging up and 
down the Sea-wall ; while that of Chioggia, when not 
professionally engaged with the net, gave its leisure to 
playing mora ' in the shade, or pursuing strangers, and 
pitilessly offering them boats. For my own part, I re- 
fused the subtlest advances of this kind which were 
made me in Chiozzotto, but fell a helpless prey to a boat- 
man who addressed me in some words of wonderful 
English, and then rowed me to the Sea-wall at about 
thrice the usual fare. 

As we passed up the shady side of the principal street, 
we came upon a plump little blond boy, lying asleep on 
the stones, with his head upon his arm ; and as no one 
was near, the artist of our party stopped to sketch the 

* Mora is the game which the Italians play with their fingers, one throw- 
ing out two, three, or four fingers, as the case may be, and calling the num- 
ber at the same instant. If (so I understood the game) the player mistakes 
the number of fingers he throws out, he loses ; if he hits the number with 
both voice and fingers, he wins. It is played with tempestuous interest, and 
is altogether fiendish in appearance. 



176 VENETIAN LIFE 

sleeper. Atmospheric knowledge of the fact spread rap- 
idly, and in a few minutes we were the centre of a gen- 
eral assembly of the people of Chioggia, who discussed 
us, and the artist's treatment of her subject, in open 
congress. They handed round the airy chaff as usual, 
but were very orderly and respectful, nevertheless, — 
one father of the place quelling every tendency to tu- 
mult by kicking his next neighbor, who passed on the 
penalty till, by this simple and ingenious process, the 
guilty cause of the trouble was infallibly reached and 
kicked at last. I placed a number of soldi in the boy's 
hand, to the visible sensation of the crowd, and then 
we moved away and left him, heading, as we went, a 
procession of Chiozzotti, who could not make up their 
minds to relinquish us till we took refuge in a church. 
When we came out the procession had disappeared, but 
all round the church door, and picturesquely scattered 
upon the pavement in every direction, lay boys asleep, 
with their heads upon their arms. As we passed laugh- 
ing through the midst of these slumberers, they rose 
and followed us with cries of ^' Mi tiri zu! Mi tirisu!^^ 
(Take me down ! Take me down !) They ran ahead, and 
fell asleep again in our path, and round every corner 
we came upon a sleeping boy ; and, indeed, we never 
got out of that atmosphere of slumber till we returned 
to the steamer for Venice, when Chioggia shook off 
her drowsy stupor, and began to tempt us to throw 
soldi into the water, to be dived for by her awakened 
children. 



XIII. THE ARMENIANS 

A PARTICULAR FRIEND — THE SENTIMENT AND THE 
LEARNING OF SAN LAZZARO — THE COLLEGE OF THE 
ARMENIANS IN VENICE AND A GRADUATION CERE- 
MONIAL. 

AMONG the pleasantest friends we made in 
Venice were the monks of the Armenian Con- 
vent, whose cloistral buildings rise from the 
glassy lagoon, upon the south of the city, near a mile 
away. This "bulk 

Of mellow brick-work on an isle of bowers " 

is walled in with solid masonry from the sea, and in- 
closes a garden-court, filled with all beautiful flowers, 
and with the memorable trees of the East ; while another 
garden encompasses the monastery itself, and yields 
those fruits and vegetables which supply the wants of 
the well-cared-for mortal part of the brothers. The is- 
land is called San Lazzaro, and the convent was estab- 
lished in 1 71 7 by a learned and devoted Armenian 
priest named Mechithar, from whom the present order 
of monks is called Mechitharist. He was the first who 
formed the idea of educating a class of priests to act as 
missionaries among the Armenian nation in the East, 
and infuse into its civil and religious decay the life of 
European piety and learning. He founded at Sebaste, 
therefore, a religious order, of which the seat was after- 



178 VENETIAN LIFE 

wards removed to Constantinople, where the friars met 
with so much persecution from Armenian heterodoxy 
that it was again transferred, and fixed at Modone in 
Morea. That territory fell into the hands of the Turks, 
and the Mechitharists fled with their leader to Venice, 
where the Republic bestowed upon them a waste and 
desolate island, which had formerly been used as a 
refuge for lepers ; and the monks made it the love- 
liest spot in the lagoons. 

I 

The little island has such a celebrity in travel and ro- 
mance, that I feel my pen catching in the tatters of a 
threadbare theme. And yet I love the place and its peo- 
ple so well that I could scarcely pass it without mention. 
Every tourist who spends a week in Venice goes to see 
the convent, and every one is charmed with it and with 
the courteous welcome of the fathers. Its best interest 
is the intrinsic interest attaching to it as a seat of Arme- 
nian culture ; but persons who relish the sentimentalism 
of Byron's life find the convent all the more entertain- 
ing, from the fact that he did the Armenian language 
the favor to study it there a little. The monks show his 
autograph, together with those of other distinguished 
persons, and the Armenian Bible which he used to read. 
I understood from one of the friars. Padre Giacomo 
Issaverdanz, that the brothers knew little or nothing of 
Byron's celebrity as a poet while he studied with them, 
and that his proficiency as an Armenian scholar was not 
such as to win high regard from them. Most readers 



THE ARMENIANS 179 

who have visited the convent will recall the pleasant 
face and manners of the young father mentioned, who 
shows the place to English-speaking travelers, and will 
care to know that Padre Giacomo was born at Smyrna, 
and dwelt there in the family of an English lady, till he 
came to Venice, and entered on his monastic life at San 
Lazzaro. 

He came one morning to breakfast with us, bringing 
with him Padre Alessio, a teacher in the Armenian Col- 
lege in the city, who had Mesopotamia for his formida- 
ble birthplace. But I soon came to know Padre Alessio 
apart from Mesopotamia, and to find him very interest- 
ing as a scholar and an artist. He threw a little grace 
of poetry around our simple feast, by repeating some 
Armenian verses, — grace all the more ethereal from 
our ignorance of their meaning. Our breakfast-table talk 
wrought to friendship the acquaintance made some time 
before, and the next morning we received the photo- 
graph of Padre Giacomo, and the compliments of the 
Orient, in a heaped basket of ripe and luscious figs from 
the garden of the Convent San Lazzaro. When, in turn, 
we went to visit him at the convent, we had experience 
of a more curious oriental hospitality. Refreshments 
were offered to us as to friends, and we lunched fairily 
upon little dishes of rose leaves, delicately preserved, 
with all their fragrance, in a *' lucent sirup." It seemed 
that this was a common conserve in the East ; but we 
could hardly divest ourselves of the notion of sacrilege, 
as we thus fed upon the very perfume of the soul of 
summer. Pleasant talk accompanied the dainty repast, 



i8o VENETIAN LIFE 

— Padre Giacomo recounting for us some of his adven- 
tures with the people whom he had to show about the 
convent, and of whom many were disappointed at not 
finding a gallery or museum, and went away in extreme 
disgust ; and relating with a sly, sarcastic relish, that 
blended curiously with his sweetness and gentleness of 
spirit, how some English people once came with the 
notion that Lord Byron was an Armenian; how an 
unhappy French gentleman, who had been robbed in 
Southern Italy, would not be parted a moment from a 
huge bludgeon which he carried in his hand, and (prob- 
ably disordered by his troubles) could hardly be per- 
suaded from attacking the mummy which is in one of 
the halls ; how a sharp, bustling, go-ahead American 
rushed in one morning, rubbing his hands, and demand- 
ing, " Show me all you can in five minutes." 

As a seat of learning, San Lazzaro is famed through- 
out the Armenian world, and gathers under its roof the 
best scholars and poets of that nation. In the press of 
the convent books are printed in some thirty different 
languages ; and a number of the fathers employ them- 
selves constantly in works of translation. The most dis- 
tinguished of the Armenian literati now living at San 
Lazzaro is the Reverend Father Gomidas Pakraduni, 
who has published an Armenian version of " Paradise 
Lost," and whose great labor, the translation of Homer, 
has been recently issued from the convent press. He 
was born at Constantinople of an ancient and illustrious 
family, and took religious orders at San Lazzaro, where 
he was educated, and where for twenty-five years after 



THE ARMENIANS i8i 

his consecration he held the professorship of his native 
tongue. He devoted himself especially to the culture of 
the ancient Armenian, and developed it for the expres- 
sion of modern ideas ; he made exhaustive study of the 
vast collection of old manuscripts at San Lazzaro, and 
then went to Paris in pursuance of his purpose, and ac- 
quainted himself with the treasures of Armenian learn- 
ing in the Bibliotheque Royale. He became the first 
scholar of the age in his national language, and ac- 
quired at the same time a profound knowledge of Latin 
and Greek. 

Returning to Constantinople, Father Pakraduni, whose 
fame had preceded him, took up his residence in the 
family of a noble Armenian, in the service of the Turkish 
government ; and, while assuming the care of educating 
his friend's children, began those labors of translation 
which have since so largely employed him. He made 
an Armenian version of Pindar, and wrote a work on 
Rhetoric, both of which were destroyed by fire while yet 
in manuscript. He labored, meanwhile, on his trans- 
lation of the Iliad, — a youthful purpose which he did 
not see fulfilled till the year i860, when he was already 
seventy. In this translation he revived with admirable 
success an ancient species of Armenian verse, which 
bears, in flexibility and strength, comparison with the 
original Greek. Another of his labors was the produc- 
tion of an Armenian Grammar, in which he reduced to 
rule and order the numerous forms of his native tongue, 
never before presented by one work in all its variety. 

Padre Gi^como, to whose great kindness I am in- 



1 82 VENETIAN LIFE 

debted for a biographic and critical notice in writing 
of Father Pakraduni, considers the epic poem by that 
scholar a far greater work than any of his philological 
treatises, profound and thorough as these are. When 
nearly completed, this poem perished in the same con- 
flagration which consumed the Pindar and the Rhetoric; 
but the poet patiently began his work anew, and after 
eight years gave his epic of twenty books and twenty- 
two thousand verses to the press. The hero of the poem 
is Haik, the first Armenian patriarch after the flood, 
and the founder of a kingly dynasty. Nimrod, the great 
hunter, drunk with victory, declares himself a god, and 
ordains his own worship throughout the Orient. Haik 
refuses to obey the commands of the tyrant, takes up 
arms against him, and finally kills him in battle. "In 
the style of this poem,'^ writes Padre Giacomo, "it is 
hard to tell whether to admire most its richness, its 
energy, its sweetness, its melancholy, its freedom, its 
dignity, or its harmony, for it has all these virtues in 
turn. The descriptive parts are depicted with the faith- 
fulest pencil : the battle scenes can be matched only in 
the Iliad." 

Father Pakraduni returned, after twenty-five years^ 
sojourn at Constantinople, to publish his epic at San 
Lazzaro, where he still lives, a tranquil, gentle old man, 
with a patriarchal beauty and goodness of face. In 1861 
he printed his translation of Milton, with a dedication 
to Queen Victoria. His other works bear witness to the 
genuineness of his inspiration and piety, and the dili- 
gence of his study : they are poems, poetic translations 



THE ARMENIANS 183 

from the Italian, religious essays, and grammatical 
treatises. 

Indeed, the existence of all the friars at San Lazzaro 
is one of close and earnest study; and life grows so 
fond of these quiet monks that it will hardly part with 
them at last. One of them is ninety-five years old, and, 
until 1863, there was a lay-brother among them whose 
years numbered a hundred and eight, and who died of 
old age, on the 1 7th of September, after passing fifty- 
eight years at San Lazzaro. From biographic memo- 
randa furnished me by Padre Giacomo, I learn that the 
name of this patriarch was George Karabagiak, and 
that he was a native of Kutaieh in Asia Minor. He 
was for a long time the disciple of Ded^ Vartabied, a 
renowned preacher of the Armenian faith, and he after- 
ward taught the doctrines of his master in the Arme- 
nian schools. Failing in his desire to enter upon the 
sacerdotal life at Constantinople, he procured his ad- 
mission as lay-brother at San Lazzaro, where all his 
remaining days were spent. He was not very learned ; 
but he had a great passion for poetry, and he was the 
author of some thirty small works on different subjects. 
During the course of his long and diligent life, which 
was chiefly spent in learning and teaching, he may be 
said to have hardly known a day's sickness, and at 
last he died of no perceptible disorder. The years tired 
him to death. He had a trifling illness in August, and 
as he convalesced, he grew impatient of the tenacious 
life which held him to earth. Slowly pacing up and 
down the corridors of the convent, he used to crave the 



i84 VENETIAN LIFE 

prayers of the brothers whom he met, beseeching them 
to intercede with Heaven that he might be suffered 
to die. One day he said to the archbishop, " I fear 
that God has abandoned me, and I shall live." Only 
a little while before his death he wrote some verses, as 
Padre Giacomo's memorandum witnesses, " with a firm 
and steady hand," and the manner of his death was 
this, — as recorded in the grave and simple words 
of my friend's note: — "Finally, on the 17th of Sep- 
tember, very early in the morning, a brother entering 
his chamber asked him how he was. * Well,* he re- 
plied, turning his face to the wall, and spoke no more. 
He had passed to a better life." 

II 

Besides the Convent of San Lazzaro, where Armenian 
boys from all parts of the East are educated for the 
priesthood, the nation has a college in the city in which 
boys intended for secular careers receive their schooling. 
The Palazzo Zenobia is devoted to the use of this col- 
lege, where, besides room for study, the boys have abun- 
dant space and apparatus for gymnastics, and ample 
grounds for gardening. We once passed a pleasant 
summer evening there, strolling through the fragrant 
alleys of the garden, in talk with the father-professors, 
and looking on at the gymnastic feats of the boys ; and 
when the annual exhibition of the school took place in 
the fall, we were invited to be present. 

The room appointed for the exhibition was the great 
hall of the palace, which in other days had evidently 



THE ARMENIANS 185 

been a ballroom. The ceiling was frescoed in the man- 
ner of the last century, with Cupids and Venuses, Vices 
and Virtues, fruits and fiddles, dwarfs and blackamoors ; 
and the painted faces looked down on a scene of as 
curious interest as ever the loves and graces of Tiepolo 
might hope to see, when the boys of the college, after 
assisting at Te Deum in the chapel, entered the room, 
and took their places. 

At the head of the hall sat the archbishop, in his 
dark robes, with his heavy gold chain about his neck, — 
a figure and a countenance in all things spiritual, gra- 
cious, and reverend. There is small difference, I believe, 
between the creeds of the Armenians and the Roman 
Catholics, but a very great disparity in the looks of the 
two priesthoods, which is all in favor of the Armenians. 
The Armenian wears his beard, and the Latin shaves, 
— which may have a great deal to do with the holiness 
of appearance. Perhaps, also, the mild nature of the 
oriental yields more sweetly and entirely to the self- 
denials of the ecclesiastical vocation, and thus wins a 
fairer grace from them. At any rate, I have not seen 
anything but content and calm in the visages of the 
Armenian fathers, among whom the priest-face, as a 
type, does not exist, though it would mark the Latin 
ecclesiastic in whatever dress he wore. There is, more- 
over, a look of such entire confidence and unworldly 
sincerity in their eyes that I could not help thinking, as I 
turned from the portly young fathers to the dark-faced, 
grave, old-fashioned schoolboys, that an exchange of 
beard only was needed to effect an exchange of character 



i86 VENETIAN LIFE 

between those youthful elders and their pupils. The 
gray-haired archbishop is a tall and slender man; but 
nearly all the fathers take kindly to curves and circles, 
and glancing down a row of these amiable priests one 
could scarcely repress a smile at the constant recurrence 
of the line of beauty in their well-rounded persons. 

On the right and left of the archbishop were the few 
invited guests, and at the other end of the saloon sat 
one of the fathers, the plump key-stone of an arch of 
comfortable young students expanding toward us. Most 
of the boys are from Turkey (the Armenians of Venice, 
though acknowledging the Pope as their spiritual head, 
are the subjects of the Sultan), others are of Asiatic 
birth, and two are Egyptians. 

The mother of these boys — a black-eyed, olive- 
cheeked lady, very handsome and fashionable — was 
present with their younger brother. I hardly know 
whether to be ashamed of having been awed by hear- 
ing of the little Egyptian that his native tongue was 
Arabic, and that he spoke nothing more occidental than 
Turkish. But, indeed, was it wholly absurd to offer a 
tacit homage to this favored boy, who must know the 
"Arabian Nights'* in the original? 

The exercises began with a theme in Armenian — a 
language which, but for its English abundance of sibi- 
lants, and a certain German rhythm, was wholly out- 
landish to our ears. Themes in Italian, German, and 
French succeeded, and then came one in English. We 
afterward had speech with the author of this essay, who 
expressed the liveliest passion for English, in the philo- 



^> J' , > '— '^r#^; 





THE ARMENIANS 187 

sophy and poetry of which it seemed he particularly 
delighted. He told us that he was a Constantinopolitan, 
and that in six months more he would complete his col- 
legiate course, when he would return to his native city, 
and take service under the Turkish government. Many 
others of the Armenian students here also find this 
career open to them. 

The literary exercises closed with another essay in 
Armenian ; and then the archbishop delivered, very 
gracefully and impressively, an address to the boys. 
After this, the distribution of the premiums — medals of 
silver and bronze, and books — took place at the desk 
of the archbishop. Each boy, as he advanced to receive 
his premium, knelt and touched the hand of the priest 
with his lips and forehead, — a ceremony which had 
preceded and followed the reading of all the themes. 

Social greetings and congratulations now ended 
an entertainment, throughout which everybody was 
pleased, and the good-natured fathers seemed to be 
moved with a delight as hearty as that of the boys 
themselves. Indeed, the ground of affection and con- 
fidence on which the lads and their teachers seemed 
to meet, was something very novel and attractive. We 
shook hands with our smiling friends among the fathers, 
took leave of the archbishop, and then visited the studio 
of Padre Alessio, who had just finished a faithful and 
spirited portrait of monsignore. Adieux to the artist 
and to Padre Giacomo brought our visit to an end ; and 
so, from that scene of oriental learning, simplicity, and 
kindliness, we walked into our western life once more, 



i88 VENETIAN LIFE 

and resumed our citizenship and burden in the Vene- 
tian world, — out of the waters of which, like a hydra 
or other water beast, a bathing boy instantly issued and 
begged of us. 

A few days later our good Armenians went to pass a 
month on the mainland near Padua, where they have 
comfortable possessions. Peace followed them, and they 
came back as plump as they went. 



XIV. THE GHETTO AND THE JEWS OF 
VENICE 

THE ACTUAL SOCIAL STATUS OF THE VENETIAN JEWS 
— THEIR TREATMENT IN THE MIDDLE AGES — THE 
NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE GHETTO — THE GHETTO 
ITSELF. 

AS I think it extremely questionable whether I 
could get through a chapter on this subject 
without some feeble pleasantry about Shylock, 
and whether, if I did, the reader would be at all satisfied 
that I had treated the matter fully and fairly, I say at the 
beginning that Shylock is dead ; that, if he lived, An- 
tonio would hardly spit upon his gorgeous pantaloons 
or his Parisian coat, as he met him on the Rialto ; that 
he would far rather call out to him, ^^Cio Shylock! Bon 
dt! Gopiaser vederla : " ' that, if Shylock by any chance 
entrapped Antonio into a foolish promise to pay him a 
pound of his flesh on certain conditions, the commissary 
of police before whom they brought their affair would 
dismiss them both to the madhouse at San Servolo. In 
a word, the present social relations of Jew and Christian 
in this city render the " Merchant of Venice " quite im- 
possible ; and the reader, though he will find the Ghetto 
sufficiently noisome and dirty, will not find an oppressed 
people there, nor be edified by any of those insults or 
beatings which it was once a large share of Christian 
* " Shylock, old fellow, good-day. Glad to see you." 



I90 VENETIAN LIFE 

duty to mflict upon the enemies of our faith. The Cath- 
olic Venetian certainly understands that his Jewish fel- 
low-citizen is destined to some very unpleasant expe- 
riences in the next world, but Corpo di Bacco ! that is no 
reason why he should not be friends with him in this. 
He meets him daily on the Exchange and at the Casino, 
and he partakes of the hospitality of his conversazioni. 
If he still despises him — and I think he does less than 
any other Christian — he keeps his contempt to himself ; 
for the Jew is gathering into his own hands great part 
of the trade of the city, and has the power that belongs 
to wealth. He is educated, liberal, and enlightened, and 
the last great name in Venetian literature is that of the 
Jewish historian of the Republic, Romanin. The Jew's 
political sympathies are invariably patriotic, and he calls 
himself, not Ebreo, but Veneziano. He lives, when rich, 
in a palace or a fine house on the Grand Canal, and 
he furnishes and lets many others (I must say at rates 
which savor of the loan secured by the pound of flesh) 
in which he does not live. The famous and beautiful Ca* 
Doro now belongs to a Jewish family ; and an Israelite, 
the most distinguished physician in Venice, occupies 
the appartamento signorile in the palace of Cardinal 
Bembo. The Jew is a physician, a banker, a manufac- 
turer, a merchant ; and he makes himself respected for 
his intelligence and his probity, — which perhaps does 
not infringe more than that of Italian Catholics. He 
dresses well, — with that indefinable difference, how- 
ever, which distinguishes him in everything from a 
Christian, — and his wife and daughter are fashionable 



THE GHETTO AND JEWS OF VENICE 191 

women. They are sometimes, also, very pretty ; and I 
have seen one Jewish lady who might have stepped 
out of the sacred page, down from the patriarchal age, 
and been known for Rebecca, with her oriental grace 
and sensitive, high-bred look and bearing. But it is 
to the Ghetto I want to take you now (by the way we 
went one sunny day late last fall), that I may show 
you something of the Jewish past, which has survived 
to the nineteenth century in much of the discomfort 
and rank savor of the dark ages. 

I 

In the fifteenth century all the riches of the Orient had 
been poured into the lap of Venice, and a reckless 
profusion took possession of her citizens. The money, 
hastily and easily got, went as rapidly as it came. It 
went chiefly for dress, in which the Venetian still in- 
dulges very often to the stint of his stomach ; and the 
ladies of that bright-colored, showy day bore fortunes on 
their delicate persons in the shape of costly vestments 
of scarlet, black, green, white, maroon, or violet, covered 
with gems, glittering with silver buttons, and ringing 
with silver bells. The fine gentlemen of the period were 
not behind them in extravagance ; and the priests were 
peculiarly luxurious in dress, wearing gay silken robes, 
with cowls of fur and girdles of gold and silver. Sump- 
tuary laws were vainly passed to repress the general 
license, and fortunes were wasted and wealthy families 
reduced to beggary. ' There was yet no Monte di Piet^, 

* Galliciolli, Meniorie Venete. 



192 VENETIAN LIFE 

and the demand for pawnbrokers becoming imperative, 
the Republic was obliged to recall the Hebrews from the 
exile into which they had been driven some time before, 
that they might set up pawnshops and succor necessity. 
They came back, however, only for a limited time, and 
were obliged to wear a badge of yellow color upon 
the breast, to distinguish them from the Christians, and 
later a yellow cap, then a red hat, and then a hat of oil- 
cloth. They could not acquire houses or lands in Venice, 
or practice any trade, or exercise any noble art but 
medicine. They were assigned a dwelling-place in the 
vilest and unhealthiest part of the city, and their quarter 
was called Ghetto, from the Hebrew nghedahy a con- 
gregation.' They were obliged to pay their landlords 
a third more rent than Christians paid ; the Ghetto was 
walled in, and its gates were kept by Christian guards, 
who every day opened them at dawn and closed them 
at dark, and who were paid by the Jews. They were 
not allowed to come out of the Ghetto on holidays ; 
and two barges, with armed men, watched over them 
night and day, while a special magistracy had charge 
of their affairs. Their synagogues were built at Mestre, 
on the mainland ; and their dead were buried in the 
sand upon the seashore, whither, on the Mondays of 
September, the baser sort of Venetians went to make 
merry, and drunken men and women danced above 
their desecrated tombs. These unhappy people were 
forced also to pay tribute to the state, at first every third 
year, then every fifth year, and then every tenth year, 

' Mutinelli. 



THE GHETTO AND JEWS OF VENICE 193 

the privilege of residence being ingeniously renewed to 
them at the^e periods for a round sum ; but, in spite of 
all, they flourished upon the waste of their oppressors ; 
they waxed rich as these waxed poor, and were not 
again expelled from the city.' 

There never was any attempt to disturb the Hebrews by 
violence, except on one occasion, about the close of the 
fifteenth century, when a tumult was raised against them 
for child-murder. This, however, was promptly quelled 
by the Republic before any harm was done them ; and 
they dwelt peacefully in their Ghetto till the lofty gates 
of their prison caught the sunlight of modern civilization, 
and crumbled beneath it. Then many of the Jews came 
out and fixed their habitations in different parts of the 
city, but many others clung to the spot where their tem- 
ples still remain, and which was hallowed by long suffer- 
ing, and soaked with the blood of innumerable genera- 
tions of geese. So, although you find Jews everywhere 
in Venice, you never find a Christian in the Ghetto, 
which is held to this day by a large Hebrew population. 

II 

We had not started purposely to see the Ghetto, and 
for this reason it had that purely incidental relish, 
which is the keenest savor of the object of interest. We 
were on an expedition to find Sior Antonio Rioba, 
who has been from time immemorial the means of 
ponderous practical jokes in Venice. Sior Antonio is a 
rough-hewn statue set in the corner of an ordinary gro- 

* Del Commercio dei Veneziani. Mutinelli 



194 VENETIAN LIFE 

eery, near the Ghetto. He has a pack on his back and 
a staff in his hand ; his face is painted, and is habitu- 
ally dishonored with dirt thrown upon it by boys. On 
the wall near him is painted a bell-pull, with the legend, 
Sior Antonio Rioba, Rustics, raw apprentices, and Ger- 
mans new to the city, are furnished with packages to 
be carried to Sior Antonio Rioba, who is very hard to 
find, and not able to receive the messages when found, 
though there is always a crowd of loafers near to re- 
ceive the unlucky simpleton who brings them. " E poi^ 
che commedia vederli arrabiarsi / Che rider e / " That is 
the Venetian notion of fun, and no doubt the scene 
is amusing. I was curious to see Sior Antonio, because 
a comic journal bearing his name had been published 
during the time of the Republic of 1848, and from the 
fact that he was then a sort of Venetian Pasquino. But 
I question now if he was worth seeing, except as some- 
thing that brought me into the neighborhood of the 
Ghetto, and suggested the idea of visiting that quarter. 
As we left him and passed up the canal in our 
gondola, we came unawares upon the church of Santa 
Maria dell' Orto, one of the most graceful Gothic 
churches in the city. The fagade is exquisite, and has 
two Gothic windows of a religious and heavenly beauty. 
One longed to fall down on the space of green turf 
before the church, now bathed in the soft golden 
October sunshine, and recant these happy, common- 
place centuries of heresy, and have back again the 
good old believing days of bigotry, and supersti- 
tion, and roasting, and racking, if only to have once 



THE GHETTO AND JEWS OF VENICE 195 

more the men who dreamed those windows out of their 
faith and piety (if they did, which I doubt), and made 
them with their patient, reverent hands (if their hands 
were reverent, which I doubt). The church is called 
Santa Maria dell' Orto, from the miraculous image of 
Our Lady which was found in an orchard where the 
temple now stands. We saw this miraculous sculpture, 
and thought it reflected little credit upon the supernat- 
ural artist. The church is properly that of Saint Chris- 
topher, but the saint has been titularly vanquished by 
the Madonna, though he comes out gigantically trium- 
phant in a fresco above the high altar. 

There were once many fine paintings by Tintoretto 
and Bellini in this church ; but as the interior is now in 
course of restoration, the paintings have been removed 
to the Academy, and we saw only one, which was by 
the former master, and had all his striking imagination 
in the conception, all his strength in the drawing, and 
all his lampblack in the faded coloring. In the centre 
of the church, the sacristan scraped the carpenter's rub- 
bish away from a flat tablet in the floor, and said that 
it was Tintoretto's tomb. It is a sad thing to doubt even 
a sacristan, but I pointed out that the tomb bore any 
name in the world rather than Robusti. ** Ah ! " said 
the sacristan, "it is just that which makes it so very 
curious, — that Tintoretto should wish to be buried 
under another name 1 " ' 

* Members of the family of Tintoretto are actually buried in this church ; 
and no sacristan of right feeling could do less than point out some tomb as 
that of the great painter himself. 



196 VENETIAN LIFE 

It was a warm, sunny day in the fall, as I said ; yet 
as we drew near the Ghetto, we noticed in the air many 
white, floating particles, like lazy, straggling flakes of 
snow. These we afterward found to be the down of 
multitudes of geese, which are forever plucked by the 
whole apparent force of the populace, — the fat of the de- 
voted birds being substituted for lard in the kitchens of 
the Ghetto, and their flesh for pork. As we approached 
the filthy little riva at which we landed, a blond young 
Israelite, lavishly adorned with feathers, came running 
to know if we wished to see the church, — by which 
name he put the synagogue to the Gentile comprehen- 
sion. The street through which we passed had shops on 
either hand, and at the doors groups of jocular Hebrew 
youth sat plucking geese ; while within, long files of all 
that was mortal of geese hung from the rafters and the 
walls. The ground was webbed with the feet of geese, 
and certain loutish boys, who passed to look at us, had 
each a goose dragging at his heels, in the forlorn and 
elongated manner peculiar to dead poultry. The ground 
was stained with the blood of geese, and the smell of 
roasting geese came out of the windows of the grim and 
lofty houses. 

Our guide was picturesque, but the most helpless and 
inconclusive cicerone I ever knew ; and while his long, 
hooked Hebrew nose caught my idle fancy, and his 
soft blue eyes excused a great deal of inefficiency, the 
aimless fashion in which he mounted dirty staircases 
for the keys of the synagogue, and came down without 
them, and the manner in which he shouted to the heads 



THE GHETTO AND JEWS OF VENICE 197 

of unctuous Jessicas thrust out of windows, and never 
gained the slightest information by his efforts, were im- 
becilities that we presently found insupportable, and we 
gladly cast him off for a dark-faced Hebrew boy who 
brought us at once to the door of the Spanish synagogue. 

Ill 

Of seven synagogues in the Ghetto, the principal was 
built in 1655, by the Spanish Jews who had fled to Ven- 
ice from the terrors of the Holy Office. Its exterior has 
nothing to distinguish it as a place of worship, and we 
reached the interior of the temple by means of some 
dark and narrow stairs. In the floor and the walls of 
the passage-way were set tablets to the memory of rich 
and pious Israelites who had bequeathed their substance 
for the behoof of the sanctuary ; and the sacristan in- 
formed us that the synagogue was also endowed with a 
fund by rich descendants of Spanish Jews in Amsterdam. 
These moneys are kept to furnish indigent Israelitish 
couples with the means of marrying, and any who claim 
the benefit of the fund are entitled to it. The sacristan 
— a little wiry man, with bead-black eyes, and of a shoe- 
makerish presence — told us with evident pride that he 
was himself a descendant of the Spanish Jews. Howbeit, 
he was now many centuries from speaking the Castilian, 
which, I had read, was still used in the families of the 
Jewish fugitives from Spain to the Levant. He spoke, 
instead, the Venetian of Cannaregio, with that Jewish 
thickness which distinguishes the race's utterance, no 
matter what language its children are born to. It is a 



198 VENETIAN LIFE 

curious philological fact, which I have heard repeat- 
edly alleged by Venetians, and which is perhaps worth 
noting here, that Jews speaking their dialect have not 
only this thickness of accent, but also a peculiarity of 
construction which marks them at once. 

We found the contracted interior of the synagogue 
hardly worth looking at. Instead of having anything 
oriental or peculiar in its architecture, it was in a bad 
spirit of baroque architecture. A gallery encircled the 
inside, and here the women, during worship, sat apart 
from the men, who had seats below, running back from 
either side of the altar. I had no right, coming from a 
Protestant land of pews, to indulge in that sentimental- 
ity ; but I could not help being offended to see that each 
of these seats might be lifted up and locked into the up- 
right back, and thus placed beyond question at the 
disposal of the owner': the freedom and equality in the 
Catholic churches is much pleasanter. The sacristan 
brought a ponderous silver key, and unlocking the door 
behind the pulpit, showed us the Hebrew Scriptures 
used during the service by the Rabbi. They formed an 
immense parchment volume, and were rolled in silk upon 
a wooden staff. This was the sole object of interest in 
the synagogue, and its inspection concluded our visit. 

We descended the narrow stairs and emerged upon 
the piazza which we had left. It was only partly paved 
with brick, and was very dirty. The houses which sur- 
rounded it were on the outside old and shabby, and, 
even in this Venice of lofty edifices, remarkably high. 
A wooden bridge crossed a vile canal to another open 



THE GHETTO AND JEWS OF VENICE 199 

space, where once congregated the merchants who sell 
antique furniture, old pictures, and objects of virtu. 
They are now, however, found everywhere in the city, 
and most of them are on the Grand Canal, where they 
heap together marvelous collections, and establish au- 
thenticities beyond cavil. "Is it an original ? " asked a 
lady who was visiting one of their shops, as she paused 
before an attributive Veronese, or for all I know perhaps 
a Titian. ^'Sl, signora, originalissivio ! ^^ (most original). 
I do not understand why any class of Jews should 
still remain in the Ghetto, but it is certain, as I said, 
that they do remain there in great numbers. It may be 
that the impurity of the place and the atmosphere is 
conducive to purity of race ; but I question if the Jews 
buried on the sandy slope of the Lido, and blown over 
by the sweet sea wind, — it must needs blow many cen- 
turies to cleanse them of the Ghetto, — are not rather to 
be envied by the inhabitants of those high dirty houses 
and low dirty lanes. There was not a touch of anything 
to relieve the noisomeness of the Ghetto to its visitors ; 
and they applauded, with a common voice, the neatness 
which had prompted Andrea the gondolier to roll up 
the carpet from the floor of his gondola, and not to 
spread it again within the limits of that quarter. 



XV. SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 

ACCIDENTAL RESEARCHES — THE CONVENT OF PAOLO 
SARPI — HIS CONTROVERSY WITH ROME — HIS AT- 
TEMPTED ASSASSINATION — THE VENETIAN PASQUINO 
AND THE HOUSES OF TINTORETTO AND TITIAN — 



WE came away from the Ghetto, as we had 
arrived, in a gentle fall of goose-down, and 
winding crookedly through a dirty canal, 
glided into purer air and cleaner waters. I cannot well 
say how it was we came upon the old Servite Convent, 
which I had often looked for in vain, and which in its 
association with the great name of Paolo Sarpi is one 
of the most memorable places in Venice. We reached 
it, after passing by that old, old palace, which was ap- 
pointed in the early ages of Venetian commerce for the 
reception of oriental traffic and traffickers, and where it 
is said the Moorish merchants resided till the later time 
of the Fondaco dei Turchi on the Grand Canal. The 
fagade of the palace is richly sculptured ; and near one 
corner is the bass-relief of a camel and his turbaned 
driver, — in token, perhaps, that man and beast (as 
orientals would understand them) were here entertained. 

I 
We had lived long enough in Venice to know that it 
was by no means worth while to explore the interior of 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 201 

this old palace because the outside was attractive, and so 
we left it ; and turning a corner, found ourselves in a 
shallow canal, with houses on one side, and a grassy bank 
on the other. The bank sloped gently from the water 
up to the walls of some edifice, on which ruin seemed 
to have fastened soon after the architect had begun his 
work. The vast walls, embracing several acres in their 
close, rose only some thirty or forty feet from the ground, 
— only high enough, indeed, to join over the top of the 
great Gothic gates, which pierced them on two fagades. 
There must have been barracks near; for on the sward, 
under the walls, muskets were stacked, and Austrian 
soldiers were practicing the bayonet exercise with long 
poles padded at the point. ^^ EmSy swei, drei^ — vorwdrts! 
EinSy zweiy drei^ — rilckwarts / " snarled the drill-sergeant; 
and the dark-faced Hungarian soldiers — who may have 
soon afterward prodded their Danish fellow-beings all 
the more effectively for that day's training — stooped, 
writhed, and leaped obedient. I, who had already caught 
sight of a little tablet in the wall bearing the name of 
Paolo Sarpi, could not feel the propriety of the military 
performance on that scene ; yet I was so glad, dismount- 
ing from the gondola, to get by the soldiers without 
being forced back at the padded point of a pole, that I 
offered no audible objection to their presence. 

So passing to the other side, I found entrance through 
a disused chapel to the interior of the convent. The 
gates on the outside were richly sculptured, and were 
reverend and clean ; tufts of harsh grass grew from 
their arches, and hung down like the ** overwhelming 



202 VENETIAN LIFE 

brows" of age. Within, at first sight, I saw nothing 
but heaps of rubbish, piles of stone, and here and there 
a mutilated statue. I remember two pathetic caryatides, 
that seemed to have broken and sunk under too heavy 
a weight for their gentle beauty — and everywhere the 
unnamable filth with which ruin is always dishonored 
in Italy, and which makes the most picturesque and his- 
toric places inaccessible to the foot, and intolerable to 
the senses and the soul. I was thinking with a savage 
indignation on this incurable porcheria of the Italian 
poor (who are guilty of such desecrations), when my 
eye fell upon an inclosed space in one corner, where 
some odd-looking boulders were heaped together. It 
was a space about six feet in depth, and twenty feet 
square ; and the boulders, on closer inspection, turned 
out to be human skulls, nestling on piles of human 
bones. In any other land than Italy I think I should have 
turned from the grisly sight with a cowardly sickness 
and shuddering ; but here ! — Why, heaven and earth 
seem to take the loss of men so good-naturedly, — so 
many men have died and passed away with their diffi- 
cult, ambitious, and troublesome little schemes, — and 
the great mass of mankind is taken so small account 
of in the course of destiny, that the idea of death does 
not appear so alien and repulsive as elsewhere, and 
the presence of such evidences of our poor mortality 
can scarcely offend sensibility. These were doubtless 
the bones of the good Servite friars who had been buried 
in their convent, and had been digged up to make way 
for certain improvements now taking place within its 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 203 

walls. I have no doubt that their deaths were a rest to 
their bodies, to say nothing of their souls. If they were 
at all in their lives like those who have come after them, 
the sun baked their bald brows in summer, and their 
naked feet — poor feet ! clapping round in wooden- 
soled sandals over the frozen stones of Venice — were 
swollen and gnawed with chilblains in winter ; and no 
doubt some fat friar of their number, looking all the 
droller in his bare feet for the spectacles on his nose, 
came down Calle Falier then, as now, to collect the 
charity of bread and fuel, far oftener than the dwellers 
in that aristocratic precinct wished to see him. 

The friars' skulls looked contented enough, and smiled 
after the hearty manner of skulls ; and some of the leg- 
bones were thrust through the inclosing fence, and hung 
rakishly over the top. As to their spirits, I suppose they 
must have found out by this time that these confused 
and shattered tabernacles which they left behind them 
are not nearly so corrupt and dead as the monastic sys- 
tem which still cumbers the earth. People are building 
on the site of the old convent a hospital for indigent 
and decrepit women, where a religious sisterhood will 
have care of the inmates. It is a good end enough, but 
I think it would be the true compensation if all the 
rubbish of the old cloister were cleared from the area of 
those walls, and a great garden planted in the space, 
where lovers might whisper their wise nonsense, and 
children might romp and frolic, till the crumbling ma- 
sonry forgot its old office of imprisonment and the 
memory of its prisoners. For here, one could only think 



204 VENETIAN LIFE 

of the moping and mumming herd of monks, who were 
certainly not worth remembering, while the fame of 
Paolo Sarpi, and the good which he did, refused to be 
localized. That good is an inheritance which has en- 
riched the world ; but the share of Venice has been com- 
paratively small in it, and that of this old convent ground 
still less. I rather wondered, indeed, that I should have 
taken the trouble to look up the place ; but it is a 
harmless, if even a very foolish, pastime to go seeking for 
the secret of the glory of the palm in the earth where it 
struck root and flourished. So far as the life-long pre- 
sence and the death of a man of clear brain and true 
heart could hallow any scene, this ground was holy ; for 
here Sarpi lived, and here in his cell he died, a simple 
Servite friar, — he who had caught the bolts of excom- 
munication launched against the Republic from Rome, 
and broken them in his hand ; who had breathed upon 
the mighty arm of the temporal power, and withered it 
to the juiceless stock it now remains. And yet I could not 
feel that this ground was holy, and it did not make me 
think of Sarpi ; and I believe that only those travelers 
who invent in cold blood their impressions of memorable 
places ever have remarkable impressions to record. 

II 

Once, before the time of Sarpi, an excommunication 
was pronounced against the Republic with a result as 
terrible as that of the later interdict was absurd. Venice 
took possession, early in the fourteenth century, of Fer- 
rara, by virtue of a bargain which the high contracting 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 205 

parties — the Republic and an exiled claimant to the 
ducal crown of Ferrara — had no right to make. The 
father of the banished prince had displeased him by- 
marrying late in life, when the thoughts of a good man 
should be turned on other things, and the son compassed 
the sire's death. For this the Ferrarese drove him away, 
and as they would not take him back to reign over them 
at the suggestion of Venice, he resigned his rights in 
favor of the Republic, and the Republic at once annexed 
the city to its territories. The Ferrarese appealed to the 
pope for his protection, and Clement V, supporting an 
ancient but long quiescent claim to Ferrara on the part 
of the Church, called upon the Venetians to surrender 
the city, and, on their refusal, excommunicated them. 
All Christian peoples were commanded "to arm against 
the Venetians, to spoil them of their goods, as separated 
from the union of Christians, and as enemies of the Ro- 
man Church." They were driven out of Ferrara, but their 
troubles did not end with their loss of the city. Giustina 
Renier-Michiel says the nations, under the shelter of the 
pope's permission and command, "exercised against 
them every species of cruelty ; there was no wrong or 
violence of which they were not victims. All the rich 
merchandise which they had in France, in Flanders, and 
in other places, was confiscated ; their merchants were 
arrested, maltreated, and some of them killed. Woe to 
us, if the Saracens had been baptized Christians I our 
nation would have been utterly destroyed. Such was 
the ruin brought upon us by this excommunication that 
to this day it is a popular saying, concerning a man of 



2o6 VENETIAN LIFE 

gloomy aspect, ^ He looks as if he were bringing the ex- 
communication ofFerraraJ " 

No proverb, sprung from the popular terror, com- 
memorates the interdict of the Republic which took 
place in 1606, and which, I believe, does not survive in 
popular recollection at Venice. It was at first a collision 
of the Venetian and Papal authorities at Ferrara, and 
then an interference of the pope to prevent the execu- 
tion of secular justice upon certain ecclesiastical offend- 
ers in Venetia, which resulted in the excommunication 
of the Republic, and finally in the defeat of St. Peter and 
the triumph of St. Mark. Chief among the ecclesiastical 
offenders mentioned were the worthy Abbate Brando- 
lino of Narvesa, who was accused, among other things, 
of poisoning his own father ; and the good Canonico 
Saraceni of Vicenza, who was repulsed in overtures 
made to his beautiful cousin, and who revenged himself 
by defaming her character, and " filthily defacing ^' the 
doors of her palace. The abbate was arrested, and the 
canon, on this lady's complaint to the Ten at Venice, 
was thrown into prison, and the weak and furious Pope 
Paul V, being refused their release by the Ten, excom- 
municated the whole Republic. 

In the same year, that is to say 1552, the bane and 
antidote, Paul the Pope and Paul Sarpi the friar, were 
sent into the world. The latter grew in piety, fame, and 
learning, and at the time the former began his quarrel 
with the Republic there was none in Venice so fit and 
prompt as Sarpi to stand forth in her defense. He was 
at once taken into the service of St. Mark, and his clear, 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 207 

acute mind fashioned the spiritual weapons of the Re- 
public, and helped to shape the secular measures taken 
to annul the interdict. As soon as the bull of excom- 
munication was issued, the Republic instructed her offi- 
cers to stop every copy of it at the frontier, and it was 
never read in any church in the Venetian dominions. 
The Senate refused to receive it from the Papal Nuncio. 
All priests, monks, and other servants of the Church, as 
well as all secular persons, were commanded to disre- 
gard it ; and refractory ecclesiastics were forced to open 
their churches on pain of death. The Jesuits and Capu- 
chins were banished ; and clerical intriguers, whom Rome 
sent in swarms to corrupt social and family relations, 
by declaring an end of civil government in Venice, and 
preaching among women disobedience to patriotic hus- 
bands and fathers, were severely punished. With internal 
safety thus provided for, the Republic intrusted her moral, 
religious, and political defense entirely to Sarpi, who de- 
voted himself to his trust with fidelity, zeal, and power. 

Ill 

It might have been expected that the friend of Galileo, 
and the most learned and enlightened man of his 
country, would have taken the short and decisive 
method of discarding all allegiance to Rome as the 
most logical resistance to the unjust interdict. But the 
Venetians have always been faithful Catholics,' and 

^ It is convenient here to attest the truth of certain views of religious 
sentiment in Italy, which Mr. Thomas Adolphus Trollope, in his Paul the 
Pope and Paul the Friar^ quotes from an •• Italian author, by no means 



2o8 VENETIAN LIFE 

Sarpi was (or, according to the papal writers, seemed 
to be) a sincere and obedient Servite friar, believing in 
the spiritual supremacy of the pope, and revering the 
religion of Rome. He therefore fought Paul inside of 
the Church, and his writings on the interdict remain the 
monument of his polemical success. He was the heart 
and brain of the Republic's whole resistance, — he 
supplied her with inexhaustible reasons and answers, 
— and, though tempted, accused, and threatened, he 
never swerved from his fidelity to her. 

As he was the means of her triumph,' he remained 

friendly to Catholicism, and very well qualified to speak of the progress of 
opinions and tendencies among his fellow-countrymen." This author is 
Bianchi Giovini, who, speaking of modern Catholicism as the heir of the 
old materialistic paganism, says : " The Italians have identified themselves 
with this mode of religion. Cultivated men find in it the truth there is 
in it, and the people find what is agreeable to them. But both the former 
and the latter approve it as conformable to the national character. And 
whatever may be the religious system which shall govern our descendants 
^twenty centuries hence, I venture to afiirm that the exterior forms of it 
will be pretty nearly the same as those which prevail at present, and which 
did prevail twenty centuries ago." Mr. Trollope generously dissents from 
the " pessimism^^ of these views. The views are discouraging for some 
reason ; but, with considerable disposition and fair opportunity to observe 
Italian character in this respect, I had arrived at precisely these conclusions. 
I wish here to state that in my slight sketch of Sarpi and his times I have 
availed myself freely of Mr. Trollope's delightful book — it is near being 
too much of a good thing — named above. 

* The triumph was such only so far as the successful resistance to the 
interdict was concerned ; for at the intercession of the Catholic powers the 
Republic gave up the ecclesiastical prisoners, and allowed all the banished 
priests except the Jesuits to return. The Venetians utterly refused to per- 
form any act of humiliation or penance. The interdict had been defied, 
and it remained despised. 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 209 

the object of her love. He could never be persuaded to 
desert his cell in the Minorite Convent for the apart- 
ments appointed him by the State ; and even when his 
busy days were spent in council at the Ducal Palace, 
he returned each night to sleep in the cloister. After the 
harmless interdict had been removed by Paul, and the 
unyielding Republic forgiven, the wrath of Rome re- 
mained kindled against the friar whose logic had been 
too keen for the last reason of popes. He had been 
tried for heresy in his youth at Milan, and acquitted ; 
again, during the progress of St. Mark's quarrel with 
Rome, his orthodoxy had been questioned ; and now 
that all was over, and Rome could turn her attention to 
one particular offender, he was entreated, coaxed, com- 
manded to come to her, and put her heart at rest con- 
cerning those old accusations. But Sarpi was very well in 
Venice. He had been appointed Consultor in Theology 
to the Republic, and had received free admission to the 
secret archives of the State, — a favor, till then, never 
bestowed on any. So he would not go to Rome, and 
Rome sent assassins to take his life. One evening, as 
he was returning from the Ducal Palace in company 
with a lay-brother of the convent, and an old patrician, 
very infirm and helpless, he was attacked by these 711171- 
cios of the papal court : one of them seized the lay- 
brother, and another the patrician, while a third dealt 
Sarpi innumerable dagger thrusts. He fell as if dead, 
and the ruffians made off in the confusion. 

Sarpi had been fearfully wounded, but he recovered. 
The action of the Republic in this affair is a comforting 



2IO VENETIAN LIFE 

refutation of the saying that Republics are ungrateful, 
and the common belief that Venice was particularly so. 
The most strenuous and unprecedented efforts were 
made to take the assassins, and the most terrific penal- 
ties were denounced against them. What was much 
better, new honors were showered upon Sarpi, and ex- 
traordinary and affectionate measures were taken to 
provide for his safety. 

And, in fine, he lived in the service of the Republic, 
revered and beloved, till his seventieth year, when he 
died with zeal for her good shaping his last utterance : 
** I must go to St. Mark, for it is late, and I have much 
to do." 

Brave Sarpi, and brave Republic I Men cannot honor 
them enough. For though the terrors of the interdict 
were doubted to be harmless even at that time, it had 
remained for them to prove the interdict, then and for- 
ever, an instrument as obsolete as the catapult. 

I was so curious as to make some inquiry among the 
workmen on the old convent ground, whether any stone 
or other record commemorative of Sarpi had been found 
in the demolished cells. I hoped, not very confidently, 
to gather some trace of his presence there, — to have, 
perhaps, the spot on which he died shown me. To a 
man, they were utterly ignorant of Sarpi, while affecting, 
in the Italian manner, to be perfectly informed on the sub- 
ject. I was passed, with my curiosity, from one to another, 
till I fell into the hands of a kind of foreman, to whom I 
put my questions anew. He was a man of Louis Napo- 
leonic beard, and such fair red-and-white complexion 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 211 

that he impressed me as having escaped from a show of 
wax-works, and I was not surprised to find him a wax 
figure in point of intelligence. He seemed to think my 
questions the greatest misfortunes which had ever be- 
fallen him, and to regard each suggestion of Sarpi — 
tempo della Repubblica — sco7nunica di Paolo Quinto — as 
an intolerable oppression. He could only tell me that on 
a certain spot (which he pointed out with his foot) in the 
demolished church, there had been found a stone with 
Sarpi' s name upon it. The padrone, who had the con- 
tract for building the new convent, had said, *' Truly, I 
have heard speak of this Sarpi ;" but the stone had been 
broken, and he did not know what had become of it. 

And, in fact, the only thing that remembered Sarpi, 
on the site of the convent where he spent his life, 
died, and was buried, was the little tablet on the out- 
side of the wall, of which the abbreviated Latin an- 
nounced that he had been Theologue to the Republic, 
and that his dust was now removed to the island of San 
Michele. After this failure, I had no humor to make 
researches for the bridge on which the friar was at- 
tacked by his assassins. But, indeed, why should I look 
for it ? Finding it, could I have kept in my mind the 
fine dramatic picture I now have, of Sarpi returning to 
his convent on a mild October evening, weary with 
his long walk from St. Mark's, and pacing with down- 
cast eyes, — the old patrician and the lay-brother at 
his side, and the masked and stealthy assassins, with 
uplifted daggers, behind him? Nay, I fear I should 
have found the bridge with some scene of modern life 



212 VENETIAN LIFE 

upon it, and brought away in my remembrance an old 
woman with an oil-bottle, or a straggling boy with a 
tumbler, and a very little wine in it. 

IV 

On our way home from the Servite Convent, we stopped 
again near the corner and bridge of Sior Antonio 
Rioba, — this time to go into the house of Tintoretto, 
which stands close at the right hand, on the same quay. 
The house, indeed, might make some pretensions to 
be called a palace : it is large, and has a carved and 
balconied front, in which are set a now illegible tablet 
describing it as the painter's dwelling, and a medallion 
portrait of Robusti. It would have been well if I had 
contented myself with this goodly outside ; for penetrat- 
ing, by a long narrow passage and complicated stair- 
way, to the interior of the house, I found that it had 
nothing to offer me but the usual number of common- 
place rooms in the usual blighting state of restoration. 
I must say that the people of the house, considering 
they had nothing in the world to show me, were kind 
and patient under the intrusion, and answered with very 
polite affirmation my discouraged inquiry if this were 
really Tintoretto's house. 

Their conduct was different from that of the present 
inmates of Titian's house, near the Fondamenta Nuovi, 
in a little court at the left of the church of the Jesuits. 
These unreasonable persons think it an intolerable bore 
that the enlightened traveling public should break in 
upon their privacy. They put their heads out of the 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 213 

upper windows, and assure the strangers that the house 
is as utterly restored within as they behold it without 
(and it is extremely restored), that it merely occupies 
the site of the painter's dwelling, and that there is no- 
thing whatever to see in it. I never myself had the heart 
to force an entrance after these protests ; but an ac- 
quaintance of the more obdurate sex, whom I had the 
honor to accompany thither, once did so, and came out 
with a story of rafters of the original Titianic kitchen 
being still visible in the new one. After a lapse of two 
years I revisited the house, and found that so far from 
having learned patience by frequent trial, the inmates 
had been apparently goaded into madness during the 
interval. They seemed to know of our approach by in- 
stinct, and thrust their heads out, ready for protest, be- 
fore we were near enough to speak. The lazy, frowzy 
women, the worthless men, and idle, loafing boys of the 
neighborhood, gathered round to witness the encounter ; 
but though repeatedly commanded to ring (I was again 
in company with ladies), and try to force the place, I 
refused decidedly to do so. The garrison were strength- 
ening their position by plastering and renewed renova- 
tion, and I doubt that by this time the original rafters 
are no longer to be seen. A plasterer's boy, with a fine 
sense of humor, stood clapping his trowel on his board, 
inside the house, while we debated retreat, and deri- 
sively invited us to enter : ** Suoni pure^ O signore ! 
Questa ^ la fainosa casa del gran pitlore, t immortale 
TizianOy — suoniy signore /^^ (Ring, by all means, sir. 
This is the famous house of the great painter, the im- 



214 VENETIAN LIFE 

mortal Titian. Ring !) Da capo. We retired amid the 
scorn of the populace. But indeed I could not blame 
the inhabitants of Titian's house ; and were I condemned 
to live in a place so famous as to attract idle curiosity, 
flushed and insolent with travel, I should go to the 
verge of man-traps and shot-guns to protect myself. 

This house, which is now hemmed in by larger build- 
ings of later date, had in the painter's time an incom- 
parably " lovely and delightful situation." Standing 
near the northern boundary of the city, it looked out 
over the lagoon, — across the quiet isle of sepulchres, 
San Michele, — across the smoking chimneys of the 
Murano glass-works, and the bell-towers of her churches, 
— to the long line of the seashore on the right and to 
the mainland on the left ; and beyond the nearer lagoon 
islands and the faintly penciled outlines of Torcello 
and Burano in front, to the sublime distance of the 
Alps, shining in silver and purple, and resting their 
snowy heads against the clouds. It had a pleasant 
garden of flowers and trees, into which the painter de- 
scended by an open stairway, and in which he is said 
to have studied the famous tree in The Death of Peter 
Martyr. Here he entertained the great and noble of his 
day, and here he feasted and made merry with the gentle 
sculptor Sansovino, and with their common friend, the 
rascal-poet Aretino. The painter's and the sculptor's 
wives knew each other, and Sansovino 's Paola was often 
in the house of Cecilia Vecellio ; ' and any one who is 

* The wife of Titian*s youth was, according to Ticozzi, named Lucia. It is 
in Mutinelli that I find allusion to Cecilia. The author of the Annali Ur- 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 215 

wise enough not to visit the place, can easily think of 
those ladies there, talking at an open window that gives 
upon the pleasant garden, where their husbands walk 
up and down together in the purple evening light. 

V 

In the palace where Carlo Goldoni was bom, a servant 
showed me an entirely new room near the roof, in which 
he said the great dramatist had composed his immortal 
comedies. As I knew, however, that Goldoni had left 
the house when a child, I could scarcely believe what 
the cicerone said, though I was glad he said it, and 
that he knew anything at all of Goldoni. It is a fine 
old Gothic palace on a small canal near the Frari, and 
on the Calle dei Nomboli, just across from a shop of 
indigestible pastry. It is known by an inscription, and 
by the medallion of the dramatist above the land-door; 
and there is no harm in looking in at the court on the 
ground-floor, where you may be pleased with the pic- 
turesque old stairway, wandering upward I hardly know 
how high, and adorned with many little heads of lions. 

VI 

Several palaces dispute the honor of being Bianca 
Cappello 's birthplace, but Mutinelli awards the distinc- 

bani, speaking of the friendship and frequent meetmgs of Titian and San- 
sovino, says : " Vivevano . . . allora ambedue di un amore fatto sacro dalle 
leggi divine, essendo moglie di Tiziano una Cecilia." I would not advise 
the reader to place too fond a trust in anything concerning the house 
of Titian. Mutinelli refers to but one house of the painter, while Ticozzi 
makes him proprietor of two. 



2i6 VENETIAN LIFE 

tion to the palace at Sant' AppoUinare near the Ponte 
Storto. One day a gondolier vaingloriously rowed us 
to the water-gate of the edifice through a very nar- 
row, damp, and uncleanly canal, pretending that there 
was a beautiful staircase in its court. At the moment 
of our arrival, however, Bianca happened to be hang- 
ing out clothes from a window, and shrilly disclaimed 
the staircase, attributing this merit to another Palazzo 
Cappello. We were less pleased with her appearance 
here, than with that portrait of her which we saw on 
another occasion in the palace of a lady of her name 
and blood. This lady has since been married, and the 
name of Cappello is now extinct. 

VII 

The Palazzo Mocenigo, in which Byron lived, is galvan- 
ized into ghastly newness by recent repairs, and as it is 
one of the ugliest palaces on the Grand Canal, it has 
less claim than ever upon one's interest. The custodian 
shows people the rooms where the poet wrote, dined, 
and slept, and I suppose it was from the basket balcony 
over the main door that one of his mistresses threw her- 
self into the canal. Another of these interesting relicts 
is pointed out in the small butter-and-cheese shop which 
she keeps in the street leading from Campo Sant' An- 
gelo to San Paterinan : she is a fat sinner, long past 
beauty, bald, and somewhat melancholy to behold. In- 
deed, Byron's memory is not a presence which I approach 
with pleasure, and I had most enjoyment in his palace 
when I thought of good-natured little Thomas Moore, 



SOME MEMORABLE PLACES 217 

who once visited his lordship there. Byron himself hated 
the recollection of his life in Venice, and I am sure no 
one else need like it. But he is become a cosa di Vene- 
siuy and you cannot pass his palace without having it 
pointed out to you by the gondoliers. Early after my 
arrival in the city I made the acquaintance of an old 
smooth-shaven, smooth-mannered Venetian, who said 
he had known Byron, and who told me that he once 
swam with him from the Port of San Nicolo to his palace- 
door. The distance is something over three miles ; but 
if the swimmers came in with the sea the feat was not 
so great as it seems, for the tide is as swift and strong 
as a mill-race. I think it would be impossible to make 
the distance against the tide. 



XVI. COMMERCE 

WANT OF MATERIAL FOR CONSULAR REPORTS — 
ABUNDANCE OF STATISTICS IN THE PAST : THE SALT 
TRADE, THE SLAVE TRADE, THE GREAT MAINLAND 
MARTS, TRAFFIC WITH THE EAST BY LAND AND SEA 
— THE STATE-PROTECTED ARGOSIES — THE FIVE 
GREAT FAIRS — THE VALUE OF VENETIAN COMMERCE 
IN 1423 — REVIVAL OF THE GLASS INDUSTRY AND 
THE MOSAIC ART — THE DECAY OF VENETIAN COM- 
MERCE AND INDUSTRY. 

TO make an annual report in September upon the 
Commercial Transactions of the port, was an 
official duty to which I looked forward at Ven- 
ice with a vague feeling of injury during a year of almost 
uninterrupted tranquillity. It was not because the pre- 
paration of the report was an affair of so great labor that 
I shrank from it ; but because the material was wanting 
with which to make a respectable show among my con- 
sular peers in the large and handsomely misprinted vol- 
ume of Commercial Relations annually issued by the 
Congressional publishers. It grieved me that upstart 
ports like Marseilles, Liverpool, and Bremen should oc- 
cupy so much larger space in this important volume 
than my beloved Venice ; and it was with a feeling of 
profound mortification that I used to post my meagre 
account of a commerce that once was greater than all 
the rest of the world's together. I sometimes desperately 



COMMERCE 219 

eked out the material furnished me in the statistics of 
the Venetian Chamber of Commerce by an agricultural 
essay on the disease of the grapes and its cure, or by a 
few wretched figures representative of a very slender 
mining interest in the province. But at last I deter- 
mined to end these displeasures, and to make such 
researches into the history of her Commerce as should 
furnish me material for a report worthy of the high 
place Venice held in my reverence. 

I 

Indeed, it seemed to be by a sort of anachronism that 
I had ever mentioned contemporary Venetian com- 
merce ; and I turned with exultation from the phantom 
transactions of the present to that solid and magnificent 
prosperity of the past, of which the long-enduring foun- 
dations were laid in the earliest Christian times. For 
the new cities formed by the fugitives from barbarian 
invasion of the mainland, during the fifth century, had 
hardly settled around a common democratic govern- 
ment on the islands of the lagoons, when they began 
to develop maritime energies and resources ; and long 
before this government was finally established at Rialto 
(the ancient seaport of Padua), or Venice had become 
the capital of the young Republic, the Veneti had 
thriftily begun to turn the wild invaders of the main- 
land to account, to traffic with them, and to make trea- 
ties of commerce with their rulers. Theodoric, the king 
of the Goths, who had fixed his capital at Ravenna, in 
the sixth century, would have been glad to introduce 



220 VENETIAN LIFE 

Italian civilization among his people ; but this warlike 
race were not prepared to practice the useful arts, and 
although they inhabited one of the most fruitful parts 
of Italy, with ample borders of sea, they were neither 
sailors nor tillers of the ground. The Venetians supplied 
them (at a fine profit, no doubt) with the salt made in 
the lagoons, and with wines brought from Istria. The 
Goths viewed with especial amazement their skill in the 
management of their river-craft, by means of which the 
dauntless traders ascended the shallowest streams, to 
penetrate the mainland, " running on the grass of the 
meadows, and between the stalks of the harvest field," 
— just as in this day our own western steamers are 
known to run in a heavy dew. 

The Venetians continued to extend and confirm their 
commerce with those helpless and hungry warriors, and 
were ready also to open a lucrative trade with the 
Longobards when these descended into Italy about the 
year 570. They had, in fact, abetted the Longobards 
in their war with the Greek Emperor Justinian (who 
had opposed their incursion), and in return the barbari- 
ans gave them the right to hold great free marts or fairs 
on the shores of the lagoons, whither the people re- 
sorted from every part of the Longobard kingdom to 
buy the salt of the lagoons, grain from Istria and Dal- 
matia, and slaves from every country. 

The slave trade formed then one of the most lucra- 
tive branches of Venetian commerce, as now it forms 
the greatest stain upon the annals of that commerce. 
The islanders, however, were not alone guilty of this 



COMMERCE 221 

infamous traffic ; other Italian states made profit of it, 
and it may be said to have been all but universal. But 
the Venetians were the most deeply involved in it, they 
pursued it the most unscrupulously, and they relin- 
quished it the last. The pope forbade and execrated 
their commerce, and they sailed from the papal ports 
with cargoes of slaves for the infidels in Africa. In spite 
of the prohibitions of their own government, they 
bought Christians of kidnappers throughout Europe, 
and purchased the captives of the pirates on the seas, 
to sell them again to the Saracens. Being an ingenious 
people, they turned their honest penny over and over 
again : they sold the Christians to the Saracens, and 
then for certain sums ransomed them and restored them 
to their countries ; they sold Saracens to the Christians, 
and plundered the infidels in similar transactions of 
ransom and restoration. It is not easy to fix the dates 
of the rise or fall of this slave trade ; but slavery con- 
tinued in Venice as late as the fifteenth century, and in 
earlier ages was so common that every prosperous per- 
son had two or three slaves.' The corruption of the 
citizens at this time is properly attributed in part to the 
existence of slavery among them ; and Mutinelli goes 
so far as to declare that the institution impressed per- 
manent traits on the populace, rendering them idle 
and indisposed to honest labor, by degrading labor and 
making it the office of bondmen. 

* Mutinelli, Del Costume Veneziano. The present sketch of the history of 
Venetian commerce is based upon facts chiefly drawn from Mutinelli's 
delightful treatise, Del Commercio dei Veneziani. 



222 VENETIAN LIFE 

Meanwhile, the Venetians enriched themselves by 
many other more blameless and legitimate forms of 
commerce, and gradually gathered into their grasp that 
whole trade of the East with Europe which passed 
through their hands for so many ages. After the domin- 
ion of the Franks was established in Italy in the eighth 
century, they began to supply that people, more luxu- 
rious than the Lombards, with the costly stuffs, the rich 
jewelry, and the perfumes of Byzantium ; and held a 
great annual fair at the imperial city of Favia, where 
they sold the Franks the manufactures of the luxu- 
rious Greeks, and whence in return they carried back 
to the East the grain, wine, wool, iron, lumber, and 
excellent armor of Lombardy. 

II 

From the time when they had assisted the Longobards 
against the Greeks, the Venetians found it to their in- 
terest to cultivate the friendship of the Eastern empire, 
until, in the twelfth century, they mastered the people 
so long caressed, and took their capital, under Enrico 
Dandolo. The privileges conceded to the wily Republi- 
can traders by the Greek Emperors were extraordinary 
in their extent and value. Otho, the western Caesar, hav- 
ing succeeded the Franks in the dominion of Italy, had 
already absolved the Venetians from the annual tribute 
paid the Italian kings for the liberty of traffic, and had 
declared their commerce free throughout the Peninsula. 
In the mean time they had attacked and beaten the 
pirates of Dalmatia, and the Greeks now recognized 



COMMERCE ^23 

their rule all over Dalmatia, thus securing to the Re- 
public every port on the eastern shores of the Adriatic. 
Then, as they aided the Greeks to repel the aggressions 
of the Saracens and Normans, their commerce was 
declared free in the ports of the empire, and they were 
allowed to trade without restriction in the cities, and to 
build warehouses and depots throughout the dominions 
of the Greeks, wherever they chose. The harvest they 
reaped from the vast field thus opened to their enterprise, 
must have more than compensated them for their losses 
in the barbarization of the Italian continent by the 
incessant civil wars which followed the disruption of 
the Lombard League, when trade and industry lan- 
guished throughout Italy. When the Crusaders had 
taken the Holy Land, the King of Jerusalem bestowed 
upon the Venetians, in return for important services 
against the infidel, the same privileges conceded them 
by the Greek Emperor; and when, finally, Constanti- 
nople fell into the hands of the Crusaders (whom they 
had skillfully diverted from the reconquest of Palestine 
to the siege of the Greek metropolis), nearly all the 
Greek islands fell to the share of Venice ; and the Latin 
emperors, who succeeded the Greeks in dominion, gave 
her such privileges as made her complete mistress of 
the commerce of the Levant. 

From this opulent traffic the insatiable enterprise of 
the Republic turned, without relinquishing the old, to 
new gains in the farthest Orient. Against her trade the 
exasperated infidel had closed the Egyptian ports, but 
she did not scruple to coax the barbarous prince of the 



224 VENETIAN LIFE 

Scythian Tartars, newly descended upon the shores of 
the Black Sea ; and having secured his friendship, she 
proceeded, without imparting her design to her Latin 
allies at Constantinople, to plant a commercial colony 
at the mouth of the Don, where the city of Azof stands. 
Through this entrep6t, thenceforward, Venetian energy, 
with Tartar favor, directed the entire commerce of Asia 
with Europe, and incalculably enriched the Republic. 
The vastness of such a trade, even at that day, when 
the wants of men were far simpler and fewer than now, 
could hardly be overstated ; and one nation then mo- 
nopolized the traffic which is now free to the whole 
world. The Venetians bought their wares at the great 
marts of Samarcand, and crossed the country of Tar- 
tary in caravans to the shores of the Caspian Sea, where 
they set sail and voyaged to the River Volga, which 
they ascended to the point of its closest proximity to 
the Don. Their goods were then transported overland 
to the Don, and were again carried by water down to 
their mercantile colony at its mouth. Their ships, hav- 
ing free access to the Black Sea, could, after receiv- 
ing the cargoes, return direct to Venice. The products 
of every country of Asia were carried into Europe by 
these tireless traffickers, who, enlightened and animated 
by the travels and discoveries of Matteo, Nicolo, and 
Marco Polo, penetrated the remotest regions, and 
brought away the treasures which the prevalent fears 
and superstitions of other nations would have deterred 
them from seeking, even if they had possessed the 
means of access to them. 



•i3t.^^'^S->^:-m^: 




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J 

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'*llA''<^ 







COMMERCE 225 

III 

The partial civilization of the age of chivalry had now 
reached its climax, and the class which had felt its re- 
fining effects was that best able to gratify the tastes still 
unknown to the great mass of the ignorant and impov- 
erished people. The robber counts and barons of the 
continent, newly tamed and Christianized into knights, 
spent splendidly, as became magnificent cavaliers serv- 
ing noble ladies. The Venetians, who seldom did merely 
heroic things, who turned the Crusades to their own 
account and made money out of the Holy Land, and 
whom one always fancies as having a half scorn of the 
noisy grandeur of chivalry, were very glad to supply 
the knights and ladies with the gorgeous stuffs, precious 
stones, and costly perfumes of the East ; and they now 
also began to establish manufactories, and to practice 
the industrial arts at home. Their jewelers and workers 
in precious metals soon became famous throughout 
Europe ; the glass-works of Murano rose into a celeb- 
rity and importance which they have never since lost 
(for they still supply the world with beads) ; and they 
began to weave stuffs of gold tissue at Venice, and 
silks so exquisitely dyed that no cavalier or lady of 
perfect fashion was content with any other. Besides this 
they gilded leather for lining walls, wove carpets, and 
wrought miracles of ornament in wax, — a material 
that modern taste is apt to disdain, — while Venetian 
candles in chandeliers of Venetian glass lighted up the 
palaces of the whole civilized world. 



226 VENETIAN LIFE 

The private enterprise of citizens was in every way 
protected and encouraged by the State, which did not, 
however, fail to make due profit out of it. The ships of 
the merchants always sailed to and from Venice in fleets, 
at stated seasons, seven fleets departing annually, — 
one for the Greek dominions, a second for Azof, a third 
for Trebizond, a fourth for Cyprus, a fifth for Armenia, 
a sixth for Spain, France, the Low Countries, and Eng- 
land, and a seventh for Africa. Each squadron of traders 
was accompanied and guarded from attacks of corsairs 
and other enemies, by a certain number of the state gal- 
leys, let severally to the highest bidders for the voyage, 
at a price never less than about five hundred dollars of 
our money. The galleys were all manned and armed by 
the State, and the crew of each amounted to three hun- 
dred persons, including a captain, four supercargoes, 
eight pilots, two carpenters, two calkers, a master of the 
oars, fifty cross-bowmen, three drummers, and two hun- 
dred rowers. The State also appointed a commandant 
of the whole squadron, with absolute authority to hear 
complaints, decide controversies, and punish offenses. 

While the Republic was careful in the protection and 
discipline of its citizens in their commerce upon the seas, 
it was no less zealous for their security and its own dig- 
nity in their traffic with the continent of Europe. In that 
rude day, neither the life nor the property of the mer- 
chant who visited the ultramontane countries was safe ; 
for the sorry device which he practiced, of taking with 
him a train of apes, buffoons, dancers, and singers, in 
order to divert his ferocious patrons from robbery and 



COMMERCE 227 

murder, was not always successful. The Venetians, there- 
fore, were forbidden by the State to trade in those parts ; 
and the Bohemians, Germans, and Hungarians, who 
wished to buy their wares, were obliged to come to the 
lagoons and buy them at the great marts which were 
held in different parts of the city, and on the neighbor- 
ing mai^iland. A triple purpose was thus served, — the 
Venetian merchants were protected in their lives and 
goods, the national honor was saved from insult, and 
many an honest zecchino was turned by the innkeepers 
and others who lodged and entertained the customers of 

the merchants. 

IV 

Five of these great fairs were held every week, the chief 
market being at Rialto ; and the transactions in trade 
were carefully supervised by the servants of the State. 
Among the magistracies especially appointed for the 
orderly conduct of the foreign and domestic commerce 
were the so-called Mercantile Consuls ( Ufficio dei Con- 
soli del Mercanti)^ whose special duty it was to see that 
the traffic of the nation received no hurt from the schemes 
of any citizen or foreigner, and to punish offenses of this 
kind with banishment and even graver penalties. They 
measured every ship about to depart, to learn if her 
cargo exceeded the lawful amount ; they guarded cred- 
itors against debtors and protected poor debtors against 
the rapacity of creditors, and they punished thefts sus- 
tained by the merchants. It is curious to find, contem- 
porary with this beneficent magistracy, a charge of equal 
dignity exercised by the College of Reprisals. A citizen 



2 28 VENETIAN LIFE 

offended in his person or property abroad demanded 
justice of the government of the country in which the 
offense was committed. If the demand was refused, it 
was repeated by the Republic ; if still refused, then the 
Republic, although at peace with the nation from which 
the offense came, seized any citizen of that country whom 
it could find, and, through its College of Reprisals, spoiled 
him of sufficient property to pay the damage done to its 
citizen. Finally, besides several other magistracies resi- 
dent in Venice, the Republic appointed Consuls in its 
colonies and some foreign ports, to superintend the traf- 
fic of its citizens, and to compose their controversies. 
The Consuls were paid out of duties levied on the mer- 
chandise ; they were usually nobles, and acted with the 
advice and consent of twelve other Venetian nobles or 

merchants. 

V 

, At this time, and indeed, throughout its existence, the 
great lucrative monopoly of the Republic was the salt 
manufactured in the lagoons, and forced into every 
market, at rates that no other salt could compete with. 
Wherever alien enterprise attempted rivalry, it was 
instantly discouraged by Venice. There were trouble- 
some salt mines, for example, in Croatia; and in 138 1 
the Republic caused them to be closed by paying the 
King of Hungary an annual pension of seven thou- 
sand crowns of gold. The exact income of the State, 
however, from the monopoly of salt, or from the various 
imposts and duties levied upon merchandise, it is now 
difficult to know, and it is impossible to compute ac- 



COMMERCE 229 

curately the value or extent of Venetian commerce at 
any one time. It reached the acme of its prosperity 
under Tommaso Mocenigo, who was Doge from 1414 
to 1423. There were then three thousand and three 
hundred vessels of the mercantile marine, giving em- 
ployment to thirty-three thousand seamen, and netting 
to their owners a profit of forty per cent on the capi- 
tal invested. How great has been the decline of this 
trade may be understood from the fact that in 1833 
it amounted, according to the careful statistics of the 
Chamber of Commerce, to only $60,229,740, and that 
the number of vessels now owned in Venice is one hun- 
dred and fifty. As the total tonnage of these is but 26,000, 
it may be inferred that they are small craft, and in fact 
they are nearly all coasting vessels. They no longer 
bring to Venice the drugs and spices and silks of 
Samarcand, or carry her own rare manufactures to the 
ports of western Europe ; but they sail to and from her 
canals with humble freights of grain, lumber, and hemp. 
Almost as many Greek as Venetian ships now visit the 
old queen, who once levied a tax upon every foreign 
vessel in her Adriatic ; and the shipping from the cities 
of the kingdom of Italy exceeds her by ninety sail, while 
the tonnage of Great Britain is vastly greater. Her 
commerce has not only wasted to the shadow of its 
former magnitude, but it has also almost entirely lost 
its distinctive character. Glass of Murano is still ex- 
ported to a value of about two millions of dollars annu- 
ally ; but in this industry, as in nearly all others of the 
lagoons, there is an annual decline. The trade of the 



230 VENETIAN LIFE 

port falls off from one to three millions of dollars yearly, 
and the manufacturing interests of the province have 
dwindled in the same proportion. So far as silk is con- 
cerned, there has been an immediate cause for the de- 
crease in the disease which has afflicted the cocoons for 
several years past. Wine and oil are at present articles 
of import solely, — the former because of a malady of the 
grape, the latter because of negligent cultivation of the 

olive. 

VI 

A CONSIDERABLE number of persons are still employed 
in the manufacture of objects of taste and ornament; 
and in the Ruga Vecchia at Rialto they yet make the 
famous Venetian gold chain, which few visitors to the 
city can have failed to notice hanging in strands and 
wound upon spools, in the shop windows of the Old 
Procuratie and the Bridge of Rialto. It is wrought of all 
degrees of fineness, and is always so flexile that it may 
be folded and wound in any shape. It is now no longer 
made in great quantity, and is chiefly worn by conta- 
dine (as a safe investment of their ready money), ^ and 
old-fashioned people of the city, who display the finer 
sort in skeins or strands. At Chioggia, I remember to 
have seen a babe at its christening in church literally 
manacled and shackled with Venetian chain ; and the 
little girl who came to us one day, to show us the 

* Certain foreigners living in Venice were one day astonished to find their 
maid-servant in possession of a mass of this chain, and thought it their busi- 
ness to reprove her extravagance. " Signori," she exclaimed paradoxically, 
" if I keep my money, I spend it ; if I buy this chain, it is always money (^ 

sempre soldi)." 



COMMERCE 231 

splendors in which she had appeared at a disputa (ex- 
amination of children in doctrine), was loaded with it. 
Formerly, in the luxurious days of the Republic, it is 
said the chain was made as fine as sewing-silk, and 
worn embroidered on Genoa velvet by the patrician 
dames. It had then a cruel interest from the fact that its 
manufacture, after a time, cost the artisans their eye- 
sight, so nice and subtle was the work. I could not help 
noticing that the workmen at their shops in the Ruga 
Vecchia still suffer in their eyes, even though the work 
is much coarser. I do not hope to describe the chain, 
except by saying that the links are horseshoe and oval 
shaped, and are connected by twos, — an oval being 
welded crosswise into a horseshoe, and so on, each two 
being linked loosely into the next. 

An infinitely more important art, in which Venice was 
distinguished a thousand years ago, has recently been 
revived there by Signor Salviati, an enthusiast in mosaic 
painting. His establishment is on the Grand Canal, not 
far from the Academy, and you might go by the old 
palace quite unsuspicious of the ancient art stirring with 
new life in its breast. "A. Salviati, Avvocato," is the 
legend of the bell-pull, and you do not by any means 
take this legal style for that of the restorer of a neglected 
art, and a possessor of forgotten secrets in gilded glass 
and " smalts," as they term the small delicate rods of 
vitreous substance with which the wonders of the art 
are achieved. But inside of the palace are some two 
hundred artisans at work, — cutting the smalts and glass 
into the minute fragments of which the mosaics are made, 



232 VENETIAN LIFE 

grinding and smoothing these fragments, polishing the 
completed works, and reproducing, with incredible pa- 
tience and skill, the lights and shadows of the pictures 
to be copied. 

You first enter the rooms of those whose talent distin- 
guishes them as artists, and in whose work all the won- 
derful neatness and finish and long-suffering toil of the 
Byzantines are visible, as well as an original life and 
inspiration alike impossible and profane to the elder 
mosaicists. Each artist has at hand a great variety of 
the slender stems of smalts already mentioned, and 
breaking these into minute fragments as he proceeds, 
he inserts them in the bed of cement prepared to receive 
his picture, and thus counterfeits in enduring material 
the perishable work of the painter. 

In other rooms artisans are at work upon various 
tasks of marqueterie, — table-tops, album-covers, paper- 
weights, brooches, pins, and the like, — and in others 
they are sawing the smalts and glass into strips, and 
grinding the edges. Passing through yet another room, 
where the finished mosaic- works — of course not the 
pictorial mosaics — are polished by machinery, we en- 
ter the storeroom, where the crowded shelves display 
blocks of smalts and glass of endless variety of color. 
By far the greater number of these colors are discov- 
eries or improvements of the venerable mosaicist Lo- 
renzo Radi, who has found again the Byzantine secrets 
of counterfeiting, in vitreous paste, aventurine (gold 
stone), onyx, chalcedony, malachite, and other natural 
stones, and who has been praised by the Academy of 



COMMERCE 233 

Fine Arts in Venice for producing mosaics even more 
durable in tint and workmanship than those of the 
Byzantine artists. 

In an upper story of the palace a room is set apart 
for the exhibition of the many beautiful and cosdy 
things which the art of the establishment produces. 
Here, besides pictures in mosaic, there are cunningly 
inlaid tables and cabinets, caskets, rich vases of chalce- 
dony mounted in silver, and delicately wrought jewelry, 
while the floor is covered with a mosaic pavement or- 
dered for the Viceroy of Egypt. There are here, more- 
over, to be seen the designs furnished by the Crown 
Princess of Prussia for the mosaics of the Queen's 
Chapel at Windsor. These, like all other pictures and 
decorations in mosaic, are completed in the establish- 
ment on the Grand Canal, and are afterward put up 
as wholes in the places intended for them. 

VII 

In Venice nothing in decay is strange. But it is start- 
ling to find her in her old age nourishing into fresh life 
an art that, after feebly preserving the memory of paint- 
ing for so many centuries, had decorated her prime only 
with the glories of its decline ; — for Kugler ascribes the 
completion of the mosaics of the church of St. Cyprian 
in Murano to the year 882, and the earliest mosaics of 
St. Mark's to the tenth or eleventh centuries, when the 
Greek Church had already laid her ascetic hand on 
Byzantine art, and fixed its conventional forms, para- 
lyzed its motives, and forbidden its inspirations. 



234 VENETIAN LIFE 

I think, however, one would look about him in vain 
for other evidences of a returning prosperity in the la- 
goons. The old prosperity of Venice was based upon 
her monopoly of the most lucrative traffic in the world, 
as we have already seen, — upon her exclusive privi- 
leges in foreign countries, upon the enlightened zeal of 
her government, and upon men's imperfect knowledge 
of geography, and the barbarism of the rest of Europe, 
as well as upon the indefatigable industry and intelli- 
gent enterprise of her citizens. America was still undis- 
covered ; the overland route to India was the only one 
known ; the people of the continent outside of Italy 
were unthrifty serfs, ruled and ruined by unthrifty lords. 
The whole world's ignorance, pride, and sloth were 
Venetian gain ; and the religious superstitions of the 
day, which, gross as they were, embodied perhaps its 
noblest and most hopeful sentiment, were a source of 
immense profit to the sharp-witted mistress of the Adri- 
atic. It was the age of penances, pilgrimages, and relic- 
hunting, and the wealth which she wrung from the 
devotion of others was exceedingly great. Her ships 
carried the pilgrims to and from the Holy Land ; her 
adventurers ransacked Palestine and the whole Orient 
for the bones and memorials of the saints; and her 
merchants sold the precious relics throughout Europe 
at prodigious advance upon first cost. 

But the foundations of this prosperity were at last 
sapped by the tide of wealth which poured into Venice 
from every quarter of the world. Her citizens brought 
back the vices as well as the luxuries of the debauched 



COMMERCE 235 

Orient, and the city became that seat of splendid idle- 
ness and proud corruption which it continued till the 
Republic fell. It is needless to rehearse the story of her 
magnificence and decay. At the time when the hardy, 
hungry people of other nations were opening paths to 
prosperity by land and sea, the Venetians, gorged with 
the spoils of ages, relinquished their old habits of dar- 
ing enterprise, and dropped back into luxury and indo- 
lence. Their incessant wars with the Genoese began, 
and though they signally defeated the rival Republic 
in battle, Genoa finally excelled in commerce. A Greek 
prince had arisen to dispute the sovereignty of the Latin 
Emperors, whom the Venetians had helped to place upon 
the Byzantine throne ; the Genoese, seeing the favorable 
fortunes of the Greek, threw the influence of their arms 
and intrigues in his favor, and the Latins were expelled 
from Constantinople in 1271. The new Greek Emperor 
had promised to give the sole navigation of the Black 
Sea to his allies, together with the church and palaces 
possessed by the Venetians in his capital, and he be- 
stowed also upon the Genoese the city of Smyrna. It 
does not seem that he fulfilled literally all his promises, 
for the Venetians still continued to sail to and from their 
colony of Tana, at the head of the Sea of Azof, though 
it is certain that they had no longer the sovereignty of 
those waters ; and the Genoese now planted on the shores 
of the Black Sea three large and important colonies to 
serve as entrepots for the trade taken from their rivals. 
The oriental traffic of the Venetians was maintained 
through Tana, however, for nearly two centuries later, 



236 VENETIAN LIFE 

when, in 141 o, the Mongol Tartars, under Tamerlane, 
fell upon the devoted colony, took, sacked, burned, and 
utterly destroyed it. This was the first terrible blow to 
the most magnificent commerce which the world had 
ever seen, and which had endured for ages. No wonder 
that, on the day of Tana's fall, portents of woe were seen 
at Venice, — that meteors appeared, that demons rode 
the air, that the winds and waters rose and blew down 
houses and swallowed ships ! A thousand persons are 
said to have perished in the calamities which commem- 
orated a stroke so mortally disastrous to the national 
grandeur. After that the Venetians humbly divided with 
their ancient foes the possession and maintenance of the 
Genoese colony of Caffa, and continued, with greatly 
diminished glory, their traffic in the Black Sea ; till, the 
Turks having taken Constantinople, and the Greeks 
having acquired under their alien masters a zeal for 
commerce unknown to them during the times of their 
native princes, the Venetians were finally, on the first 
pretext of war, expelled from those waters in which they 
had latterly maintained themselves only by payment of 
heavy tribute to the Turks. 

In the mean time the industrial arts, in which Venice 
had heretofore excelled, began to be practiced elsewhere, 
and the Florentines and the English took that lead in 
the manufactures of the world which the English still re- 
tain. The league of the Hanseatic cities was established 
and rose daily in importance. At London, at Bruges, at 
Bergen, and Novogorod banks were opened under the 
protection and special favor of the Hanseatic League ; 



COMMERCE 237 

its ships were preferred to any other, and, the tide of 
commerce setting northward, the cities of the League 
persecuted the foreigners who would have traded in 
their ports. On the west, Barcelona began to dispute 
the preeminence of Venice in the Mediterranean, and 
Spanish salt .was brought to Italy itself and sold by the 
enterprising Catalonians. Their corsairs vexed Venetian 
commerce everywhere ; and in that day, as in our own, 
private English enterprise was employed in piratical 
depredations on the traffic of a friendly power. 

The Portuguese also began to extend their commerce, 
once so important, and catching the rage for discovery 
then prevalent, infested every sea in search of unknown 
land. One of their navigators, sailing by a chart which 
the monk Fra Mauro, in his convent on the island of San 
Michele, had put together from the stories of travelers, 
and his own guesses at geography, discovered the Cape 
of Good Hope, and the trade of India with Europe was 
turned in that direction, and the old overland traffic 
perished. The Venetian monopoly of this traffic was gone 
long before ; if its recovery had been possible, it would 
now have been useless to the declining prosperity of the 
Republic. 

It remained for Christopher Columbus, born of that 
Genoese nation which had hated the Venetians so long 
and so bitterly, to make the discovery of America, and 
thus to give the death-blow to the supremacy of Venice. 
While all these discoveries were taking place, the old 
queen of the seas had been weighed down with many 
and unequal wars. Her naval power had been every- 



238 VENETIAN LIFE 

where crippled ; her revenues had been reduced ; her 
possessions, one after one, had been lopped away; and 
at the time Columbus was on his way to America half 
Europe, united in the League of Cambray, was attempt- 
ing to crush the Republic of Venice. 

The whole world was now changed. Commerce sought 
new channels ; fortune smiled on other nations. How 
Venice dragged onward from the end of her commer- 
cial greatness, and tottered with a delusive splendor to 
her political death, is surely one of the saddest of stories 
if not the sternest of lessons. 



END OF VOLUME I 



CAMBRIDGE • MASSACHUSETTS 
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